MedPAN participated in the Fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4) that took place under the theme Marine Protected Areas: Bringing the people and ocean together from September 4 to 8, 2017 in La Serena-Coquimbo (Chile). Close to 1,000 attendants from conservation institutions, government agencies, academic and research institutions and civil society participated in the event and discussed the importance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as essential tools for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.


The week of exchanges culminated with a high level event led by Michelle Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile where ministers, top scientists and other selected stakeholders were invited. MedPAN was among them. HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco delivered an inspiring speech that captured the crucial importance of MPAs and the need to support and develop them. You can read his speech here. The high level event concluded with a “Call to Action for the Oceans” that a number of countries already endorsed. Read the full account of this high level event.

The week enabled all stakeholders to exchange and share experiences in marine protected areas with a common view of achieving a network of marine protected areas covering 10% of the ocean by 2020, and 30% by 2030. The Mediterranean was well represented with the participation of a number of members of the MedPAN network and the Board of Directors as well as the MedPAN secretariat that organised numerous events.

A full account of the congress is available on this link but here is an overview of the key themes that MedPAN identified as most important:

MPA financing mechanisms

MedPAN was invited to speak at 2 sessions on the theme of financing: one organised by GIZ, the German cooperation agency and focusing on the “Blue Solutions” initiative and another organised by NOAA. These sessions were an opportunity to showcase our Mediterranean experience (for example the financing model of Brijuni National Park in Croatia was explained and counts now among the case studies included in the panorama platform, as well as the 2015 study on Mediterranean MPA financing needs) and to discuss how we can scale up the financing of MPAs. The need of better knowledge and communications on the socio economic benefits of MPAs and the benefits of a healthy ocean was raised, recalling the impact of WWF 2015 publication on the subject (Reviving the Ocean economy). WWF and Boston Consulting Group actually just published a report focusing on the Mediterranean “Reviving the economy of the Mediterranean Sea”. The importance of working on the necessary legal frameworks to promote local financing mechanisms was stressed.

MPA management evolution

The management of migratory species through MPA networks was raised, with a full workshop organised by MedPAN on the subject. See MedPAN article for a full account of this workshop.

Many participants also spoke about the importance of involving local communities in conservation planning (co-management) and of taking into account traditional knowledge and management.

More importantly even, it was noted that MPAs need to take into account and influence what goes on outside their boundaries on a coastal and marine scale. Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Marine Spatial Planning are the processes in which MPAs need to be associated.

The use of enabling technologies to improve the management of MPAs was raised throughout the week with discussions on the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), drones and satellites.

MPAs and ocean management

A great deal of talk also revolved around the need of sustainable management of the oceans beyond the management of MPAs especially in areas beyond national jurisdictions where a lack of concerted management can severely impede marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

MPAs and climate change; importance of no-take marine reserves

The link between climate change and conservation was on everybody’s lips during the congress. The first day of the congress was actually dedicated to the subject and an interesting workshop organised by IUCN Mediterranean highlighted the crucial need to work together (take a look at the MPA-Adapt project led by IUCN Med). Enric Sala, resident scientist at the National Geographic Society, gave a remarkable speech during the high level event to stress the importance of no-take marine reserves – the MPAs with stronger protection – to enhance ecosystem resilience and therefore better resist in the face of climate change impacts. See Enric Sala’s 2017 publication.

While MPAs were originally created to protect certain areas of special beauty or with a unique biodiversity, the concept is actually being enlarged nowadays to also strengthen the resilience of marine ecosystems to adapt to global change. No-take marine reserves are the most effective protected areas in the ocean. It was also stated that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that each party to the Paris agreement needs to declare should take MPAs into account. A knowledge café was also organised by MedPAN to reflect on how the role of no-take zones, or fully protected areas, can be better promoted to stakeholders and decision makers. Work on this subject will continue over the coming months; MedPAN would like to produce easy tools for MPAs to promote the benefits of no-take and no-go areas (the Tangier declaration includes a 2% objective of no take zones for the Mediterranean). MedPAN also attended the knowledge café organised by IUCN France on criteria and definition of fully protected areas.

Connecting people and network Call for joint action

“If you want to go fast, work alone; but if you want to go far, work together”; this proverb from Senegal could not be more true when it comes to MPA development and a whole day of the congress was dedicated to the subject. Networks of MPA managers at regional level were “unavoidable” in La Serena, thanks largely to the strong promotion of the “Towards a transatlantic partnership of Marine Protected Areas” project financed by the European Community. This project is made of three twinning projects, one of which being focused on improving cooperation between networks of MPA managers.  Partners in the twinning project include four regional networks of MPA managers, from the Caribbean (CaMPAN), the Mediterranean (MedPAN), North America (NAMPAN) and West Africa (RAMPAO). Two national institutions working with MPA networks, the French Agency for Biodiversity and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and the Environment through the Biodiversity Foundation from Spain, also joined the twinning. During IMPAC4, these networks launched a call for joint action with a statement committing ‘to working together towards the common goal of building a transatlantic Marine Protected Areas network’. This call concerns countries, managers, donors, scientists and others at local, national, regional and international levels. The call can be viewed and signed here: It also worth noting that Purificacio Canals, Preseident of MedPAN and leader of the transatlantic project was given the opportunity to speak about this call during the high level event.

MedPAN and the French Biodiversity Agency also organised a special evening dedicated to the added value of networks, brilliantly introduced by a look back by the Chilean scientist Carlos Gaymer at an old collaboration between the Islas Choros-Damas Marine Reserve in Chile and Port-Cros national Park in France to develop a management plan for this newly created Chilean MPA. Wine, cheese, and good company contributed to the resounding success of this event.

The Impana initiative was also presented by Christophe Lefebvre from IUCN during this event and Dan Lafolley from the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas talked about the recently launched the click to connect platform, aiming to facilitate the understanding of who does what around the world of marine conservation.

Strengthen exchanges and partnerships

It was also noted that the gouvernance system of MPAs need to be strengthened on all scales, from a local to a national dimension and from a regional to an international one. Partnerships with all relevant actors need to be developed on all these scales; with tour operator for example, the fishing industry or other industries.

On an institutional scale, the importance of the link between regional seas convention and Regional Fisheries Commission was reminded.

MPA databases

A number of Protected Areas databases were talked about during the congress. The world Database of Protected Areas of course, but also Biopama in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, or the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) recently launched by the European Commission. MedPAN will work towards ensuring that the data gathered in MAPAMED contributes to complete the information available for the Mediterranean.

Educational marine managed areas

France has been very active in the development and promotion of educational marine managed areas that are small coastal areas managed in a participatory way by primary school pupils, in accordance with principles defined in a charter. Born in 2012 in the Marquises islands in the Pacific, the concept has today spread to other French territories, including in the mainland, and other countries are getting interested, on the Islands of Easter or Hawaii for example.  An international network of educational marine managed areas is being considered. More info on the web site of the French Biodiversity agency.

IMPAC5 will take place in 2021 in Vancouver, Canada