Social Aspects of Marine Protected Areas

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Antonio Garcia Allut (far right) calls for marine protected areas that integrally involve local communities.

In the afternoon of October 21, Natural Justice attended a side event entitled “Getting it Right: Incorporating social aspects into marine protected area planning and implementation”, which was hosted by the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF). Chandrika Sharma (ICSF) explained how the livelihoods of fishing communities depend on healthy ecosystems and how small-scale fishing communities have been struggling and campaigning for decades to reconcile the conservation and management frameworks to more effectively manage coastal and marine habitats and resources and protect against destructive developments and fishing practices. Jorge Varela shared experiences from Honduras, stressing that despite local communities successfully mobilizing to designate the Gulf of Fonseca as a Ramsar Site in 1999, wetlands are increasing degraded by industrial expansion of shrimp farms, which undermines food sovereignty and accelerates biodiversity loss and poverty. Antonio Garcia Allut (Fundaçion Lonxanet para la Pesca Sostenible, Spain) discussed the significant decline of fish resources and artisanal fisheries in Galicia due to centralized management and destructive industrial fishing practices. Lonxanet was involved in the gazetting of Ox Miñarzos, the first marine protected area that involved local fishing communities from the beginning.

Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk (Sustainable Development Foundation, Thailand) called for laws to be compatible with each other, noting that small-scale fishers in Thailand have constitutional rights to equitable, safe, and sustainable livelihoods, but the implementation of duties and responsibilities through different government agencies often creates conflict. Jorge Luis Andreve Díaz (Kuna Tribe, Panama) shared his insights into Indigenous worldviews of natural systems as interconnected, collective, and dynamic. He stressed that marine protected areas must integrally involve local communities, ensure their free, prior and informed consent, and appropriately take into account equity and linkages between biodiversity and culture. Antonio Carlos Diegues (anthropologist, Brazil) presented on locally-declared marine extractive reserves along the coast of Brazil, which are based on the notion of sustainable use of artisanal fishers. Discussion focused on the need to ensure that governments report on their obligations under the Programme of Work on Protected Areas, particularly Element 2; the need to ensure participation of local fishing communities in CBD processes, perhaps through a voluntary fund; the need to prepare best practice guidelines on marine protected areas in time for the World Parks Congress in 2014; and the need to ensure that large conservation NGOs change their policies and approaches to involve local communities in decision-making.

21 October 2010

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