» Strengthening ocean management and governance through transboundary, ecosystem-based Large Marine Ecosystems
19.12.2016 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Strengthening ocean management and governance through transboundary, ecosystem-based Large Marine Ecosystems

©IOC/Hamid: Group shot of the 18th LME Annual Consultative Meeting, IOC/UNESCO HQ, Paris

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission hosts 18th annual consultative meeting for large marine ecosystem projects, highlighting the advances and work needed to make transboundary ecosystem-based ocean management and governance more effective and fit for purpose to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals.

How can we effectively protect, manage and sustainably develop ecosystems that run across national borders? This question is central to the management of Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs), a concept developed jointly by Dr. K. Sherman of the U.S. NOAA and Dr. L. Alexander of the University of Rhode Island, that manages ecosystems based on ecologically-distinct areas of vast ocean spaces (approximately 200,000 km2 or greater) that run along the margins of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. The world’s 64 LMEs produce over 85% of the world’s annual fish catch and provide key ecosystem services – such as natural coastal protection and carbon sequestration and storage, the so-called blue carbon.

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has been convening annual consultative meetings of the world’s Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) project stakeholders since 1997. This year’s 18th Annual Meeting (6-8 December 2016) provided once again a global forum for Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded and other marine and coastal practitioners, leaders and institutions, who shared experiences and lessons with respect to ecosystem-based governance. The meeting brought together marine, coastal management, biodiversity and climate change coastal adaptation project leaders to discuss recent developments and innovative solutions to the implementation of LME partnerships worldwide.

The GEF’s Chris Severin explained that “Large Marine Ecosystems provide a perfect hub for collaboration between a wide range of national and regional stakeholders, ranging from the highest level of politicians to the resource users themselves.” The GEF has been supporting 23 of the world’s Large Marine Ecosystems for more than two decades to improve ocean governance within and across nations, and plans to continue this work in the years to come.

This year’s annual LME meeting also launched important discussions on how the LME model of governance and management can play a key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 goals adopted by countries to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all by the year 2030. LMEs can be an essential feature of the implementation strategy behind SDG 14, which calls for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resources. Participants overwhelmingly agreed to collaborate on highlighting the proven and potential benefits of the LME approach at the forthcoming UN Conference on SDG 14 implementation to take place in June 2017.

On his keynote speech, IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin reinforced his wish to integrate the LME approach into the sustainable development agenda. “With SDG 14, governments and civil society can build together a focused Ocean Movement that brings ocean recovery into the heart of sustainable development, and promote the ecosystem based management approach which has been at the heart of the LME projects. I look forward to showcase this movement at the UN SDG14 Conference in NY next June as part of the Partnership Dialogues that will be organized,” Dr. Ryabinin concluded.

Beyond resource-rich areas with huge sustainable ocean-based development potential, LMEs also represent some of the most polluted, overfished, degraded and vulnerable areas of the ocean. The fact that 55% of these areas are shared by two or more countries makes effective environmental management all the more challenging and improvements on the existing governance models all the more urgent.

The meeting at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters focused on fostering a mutually supportive forum for project leaders to discuss experiences and lessons learned, mobilize scientific knowledge, and share data and resources such as online tool-kits and communications materials for engaging with stakeholders. Parallel regional workshopping sessions reviewed the progress of ongoing projects and brought to the light emerging issues requiring common responses, from the need to strengthen capacity building training and twinning as well as the development of regional networks of LME practitioners.

A project meeting of the more recent GEF-funded project, LME Learning Exchange and Resource Network (LME:LEARN), took place on 5-6 December 2016, in parallel to first day of the LME Annual Consultative Meeting. LME:LEARN seeks to enhance the sharing and application of knowledge and information tools across several approaches for ocean ecosystem-based governance: large marine ecosystems, integrated coastal management, marine spatial planning and marine protected areas. The project meeting had a productive output, kick-starting activities of the Governance, Ecosystem Based Management, and Data and Information Management working groups.

For Andrew Hudson from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the key objective of LME:LEARN will be strengthening the linkages between, on the one hand, area-based ocean and coastal management tools such as Integrated Coastal Management (ICM), Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), and on the other hand, the implementation strategies of the LMEs.

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org)

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