American and European stakeholders share best practice in MPAs

Representatives of civil society organisations from the EU and US gathered in Brussels on 15 and 16 May 2008 to exchange views and experiences relating to the establishment, management and monitoring of marine protected areas (MPAs) and to discuss outstanding issues and common strategies to build support for further implementation of MPAs.

The conference was organised jointly by NRDC and IEEP as part of the Transatlantic Platform for Action on the Global Environment (T-PAGE) a project co-funded by the European Commission within the framework of a programme to promote transatlantic dialogues at the non-governmental level. The marine theme of T-PAGE focussed on MPAs and their role in the conservation of marine biodiversity in the EU and US. This is a subject of considerable debate on both sides of the Atlantic, with broader application given the growing interest in high seas MPAs to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. It is an important topic where there is much to be learnt from the different approaches adopted by US agencies, the EU and Member States in the establishment and management of MPAs.

Participants at the conference represented a range of environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), environmental advisory councils, academic and other research institutions as well as the fishing industry and independent experts working on different aspects of MPAs implementation. Some representatives of public authorities at the Federal and State level in the US and at the local, national and EU level in Europe also attended the conference and contributed to the debate as keynote speakers and experts.

Following two days of discussion and debate, participants agreed that despite legal obligations to implement MPAs, the actual degree of implementation remains an ongoing challenge. Regarding the issue of building support for the establishment of networks of MPAs, experiences on both sides of the Atlantic have shown that it is difficult to prescribe a single best approach as both top-down and bottom-up approaches have proven successful in different circumstances. Participants agreed that the lack of science was delaying further implementation of MPAs and advocated the use of the precautionary approach in decisions on MPA designation and implementation. Participants highlighted the importance of monitoring and evaluation and monitoring and enforcement. Regarding high seas MPAs, participants agreed there is a need for more comprehensive management of areas beyond national jurisdiction to protect high seas resources, vulnerable species and habitats.

Further details on the discussions at the conference and the presentations delivered during the conference are available from the T-PAGE website For background documents on MPAs in the EU and US and case studies see T-PAGE publications.