World Oceans Day special: Fauna & Flora International launches five new marine projects

Fauna & Flora International’s marine conservation work is going from strength to strength, with two new projects launched in April and three more due to start in June and July 2012.

From helping to establish new Marine Protected Areas and supporting sustainable artisanal fishing practices, to helping investors assess the sustainability of commercial fisheries and addressing the growing problem of plastic pollution, Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI’s) expanding programme is tackling marine conservation from all angles.

“When we announced our intention to develop FFI’s marine programme in 2010, I don’t think even we could have predicted how fast this programme would grow,” said Nicola Barnard Frost, Marine Programme Manager at FFI.

“The remarkable progress we have made so far is thanks in large part to the hard work of our regional teams and partners, but also owes a lot to the strong relationships with local people and governments that FFI has forged over its many years of operation,” she added.

Below is just a sample of what FFI’s latest marine projects will entail.

Designing Cambodia’s first Marine Protected Area

In April, FFI began working with the Fisheries Administration in Cambodia to design and implement the country’s first large-scale Marine Protected Area (MPA) that is proposed to cover an area of approximately 300 km2 (picture an area the size of 30,000 football pitches).

The planning work will involve local partners, communities, concession holders and businesses to ensure that they understand and support the project’s goals, and to encourage the development of complementary low-impact tourism initiatives.

First steps for FFI’s marine programme in Europe

As Edita Magileviciute outlined in her recent blog, Europe’s marine environment is in urgent need of conservation action, with 70% of its marine habitats in unfavourable conditions and a further 20% whose status is unknown.

Over the last six months, FFI has been working to build key relationships, undertake consultations and develop project plans for the implementation of the Gokova Bay Marine Protected Area in Turkey.

As part of this, FFI has also being carrying out a scoping exercise to understand the key threats to the site (such as unsustainable or illegal fishing and coastal development), which will provide FFI and local partners with the information they need to implement and manage the new MPA effectively.

In July, FFI’s Eurasia team will begin similar activities in Croatia, meeting with local stakeholders and identifying priority conservation sites with a view to developing a new marine collaboration in the country.

Tackling the great plastic problem

Plastic pollution poses a major problem for marine species and habitats – it has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of marine mammals (such as sea turtles and whales) and more than a million seabirds die each year from plastic pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris.

In July, FFI will begin work to establish a clear action plan to bring about change on this issue, seeking to inform and influence industry partners and identify opportunities to reform practices and company policies in order to significantly reduce the growing volume of plastic packaging finding its way into the sea.

Down to business

From individuals to communities, we all depend on our oceans to survive – from the food and resources they provide to the role they play in regulating the global climate. While businesses can have major impacts on the seas, they too depend on healthy marine ecosystems to function in the long term.

FFI is therefore looking at ways to engage with the private sector, to help them minimise their impacts.

This work ranges from advising on offshore oil and gas exploration, to the development of a new Natural Value Initiative pilot project that will help the financial sector to evaluate commercial fisheries’ operations according to their sustainability, in order to inform their investments.

In June, FFI will also begin work to help local decision-makers to better understand the ecological and social impacts posed by shrimp trawling, and to assess the effectiveness of existing conservation approaches by learning from global experience. The aim is to develop a proposal for how FFI might be able to tackle this issue more successfully.

The wide scope of this work has been made possible thanks to a substantial grant awarded by the Arcadia Fund, which has provided a springboard to effect real changes to the way the world’s marine environment is managed.