By Kim Wright
After five days of meetings in a conference centre in Marseille, which is France’s second largest city after Paris, it felt good to get out and into nature. An aspect of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that was explored at the IMPAC III is their service of recreational opportunities. My Canadian colleagues and I decided on our final day to explore this value first hand.
After a quick ride on the Metro and a long bus journey, we hiked up over the coastal limestone Pyrenee-Province Mountains of the Calanques National Park to the beach. As the only national park in Europe that has land, marine and semi-urban areas within it, it really was a wilderness beside the city. We picnicked on the beach and swam in the Mediterranean and I even took the opportunity to have a nap.
At IMPAC III I learned that about 50% of the planet’s population lives within 100 km of the ocean. So for at least half of us, a trip to the ocean is a realistic option.
In British Columbia we have beautiful MPAs, some near cities, some in remote waterways, many of them with great recreational potential. At Living Oceans we’re working through processes such as the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) to design new MPAs and expand others so they make up a network. The recreational values the MPAs could provide is being considered along with the wildlife they will protect and the commercial seafood they’ll generate.
One of the reasons I attended the conference in Marseille was to increase awareness on the world stage of Canada’s abysmal record at making sure MPAs are used according to their intent. The government sets aside MPAs but doesn’t take the next step and ensure that places in the MPA that sensitive to fishing pressures are protected from industries such as, for instance, commercial fishing. I’m serious.
If MPAs are to retain the recreational value that our rugged coastal beauty provides, there should be no development, or very little, within the boundaries. Nonetheless, small coastal communities can gain significant revenue from visits to wilderness.
Another reason that I attended IMPAC III was to learn about community involvement in MPA design, development, management and enforcement. Most people who live near wilderness areas will tell you that they could never live in a city! They have much to gain from the conservation of those places they love to spend time in. To reap the benefits of MPAs it’s important that they have a chance to identify the places and species that they want to see protected.
As a city dweller, taking time to visits parks on land and in the water is necessary for my personal sanity, giving me an opportunity to “take a walk on the wild side” both in Marseille and here at home in British Columbia.