6 Marine Protected Areas Awarded Prestigious ‘Blue Park’ Designation For Using Science-Based Strategies

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At last month’s Our Ocean Conference in Oslo, Norway, the Marine Conservation Institute awarded its “Blue Park” Award to six marine protected areas that are using the best science-informed methods for protecting and managing marine flora and fauna. Prior to this designation, only 10 such protected areas held this designation.

Now, the Reserva Marina de Galápagos in Ecuador, Parque Nacional Isla del Coco in Costa Rica, Northern Channel Islands in the United States, Aldabra Atoll Special Reserve in the Seychelles, Area Marina Protetta di Torre Guaceto in Italy, and Arnavon Community Marine Park in the Solomon Islands join their ranks. And, cumulatively, all 16 Blue Parks protect 644,404 square miles of the ocean.

“Our goal is to recognize those MPAs that deliver on biodiversity conservation, really protecting our ocean environment and inspiring others around the world to strongly protect at least 30 percent of the ocean’s most important places by 2030,” says Dr. Lance Morgan, President of the Marine Conservation Institute, “Blue Park recognition provides regional examples of successful efforts and serves as a road map for others as we strive to protect our oceans for generations to come.”

This effort to conserve one-third of the world’s oceans by the end of the next decade is based on a resolution passed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2016 and also aligns with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, which strives to protect 10 percent of the oceans by 2020. To meet these goals, the Marine Conservation Institute endeavors to ensure that marine protected areas are employing the highest science-based conservation standards.

Before designating marine protected areas “Blue Parks”, the Marine Conservation Institute and an independent scientific panel review all nominated protected areas to confirm that they are designed and managed effectively so that they can indeed increase local biodiversity by protecting critical marine ecosystems. In addition to the 16 Blue Parks that have been awarded since 2017, the Marine Conservation Institute is working with groups in Argentina, Chile and Mozambique to implement marine protected areas that will one day meet the standards of “Blue Parks”.

“Blue Parks are the antidotes to the barrage of threats to life in our oceans,” says Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist at the Marine Conservation Institute. “[Marine protected areas] may not be able to stop climate change impacts immediately, but strong protected areas in the right places today will enable ecosystems to recover and build resilience for the future.”

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