IUCN Members Approve Oceans Protections

Motions 49 and 53 will enhance ocean health and increase resilience

HONOLULU  — The World Conservation Congress today adopted two motions to protect oceans. Motion 49 advances conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, including the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs), in high seas areas that are beyond national jurisdiction, and Motion 53 supports protection for 30 percent of the world’s oceans, which will significantly increase MPA coverage to conserve biodiversity.

Our oceans represent more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and are home to innumerable species. They are a critical source of food that also provides tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits to countless stakeholders. They also play an essential role in the regulation of our climate. MPAs can help safeguard the ocean from many human activities and are scientifically supported to conserve and enable recovery of species and habitats, and build ecosystem resilience to rapid environmental change.

Nearly two-thirds of the ocean lies beyond national boundaries, where a lack of management for some activities, little coordinated governance of existing high seas industries, intensifies the damage to our oceans. Currently, there is no existing governance mechanism to establish MPAs and comprehensively protect biodiversity in international waters.

Following is a statement from Francine Kershaw, a science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project:

“These will help reverse the tide of habitat destruction, pollution and depletion of the world’s oceans. Both emphasize the need for more marine protected areas, which are scientifically supported to enhance ocean health and resilience in the face of global warming, ocean acidification and rapidly escalating industrial activities.”


The United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010 set a target to conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020 (known as Aichi Biodiversity Target 11), and in 2015 the UN also adopted this percentage as part of its Sustainable Development Goals. However, the best available scientific information indicates that at least 30% of marine habitat needs be set-aside in MPAs in order to safeguard our oceans. This larger target is echoed in the recommendation to governments stated in the “Promise of Sydney” outcome document from the 2014 World Parks Congress.



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