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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Potlucks and Marine Planning

By Kim Wright

Potlucks and de-briefs at IMPAC3 
in Marseille
I am part of a large group of Canadians that include federal, provincial and First Nations staff, and several ENGO representatives attending the International Marine Protected Area Congress in Marseille, France this week. After the day's events are over we have been congregating at different apartments for potluck dinners to debrief on our days and save money on food.

"Je suis allergique au gluten" is a phrase I have had to regularly repeat when dining in Marseille. It is a kind of torture, being allergic to gluten and therefore to all the French breads and pastries that surround me. So I participate in the shopping and meal preparation of our pot luck dinner, a strategy that ensures my dietary peculiarities are met. This participatory approach to eating with representatives from all levels of government and civil society is not that dissimilar to participatory planning for MPAs (Ah ha! I bet you didn't see that coming).

Today's topic at the Congress was participatory approaches to the creation and management of MPAs and truly, cooking a good pot luck dinner is a lot like developing a good protected area. We all have preferences, talents and tastes when it comes to cooking which, when coordinated by a good host, provides a great meal for everyone involved. Every now and again you get a freeloader that shows up empty handed, or two people that unknowingly duplicate dishes, but mostly, people will find what they need, discover something new and leave satisfied.

Another possibility is the "top down approach" to creating MPAs. Remember the liver that was put in front of you as a kid and you were told you had to eat it because it's good for you? That’s a top down approach to dining. Dictating terms, whether with meals or MPAs, can cause resentment. Especially when protected areas disrupt some folks’ livelihoods.

Today we learned that the features that are included in locally created and managed MPAs depend on what the outcomes need to be. Local contribution to the design and management of MPAs in proximity to coastal communities often leads to better buy-in and benefits. Then community members can monitor and measure the success of the MPA through the benefits they receive. MPAs that are created to protect biodiversity can also provide recreational areas, better protection of cultural values and nurseries for commercially valued fish.

So the next time you’re trying to get your kid to eat healthy, think about whether commanding them or collaborating with them can lead to mutual agreement and benefit. As for me, the question on my mind is: Où est l’épicerie?     

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marseilles Day 2 - Life and Lunch

By Kim Wright

Marseille is a historic fishing town and fishing continues to be important
to the community to this day 

Sylvia Earle said, "the most important thing we extract from the ocean is our existence," and thus began Day Two of IMPAC III - and my foray into the science of ecosystem valuation. There are three things about the day that really stand out:
  1. The lunch of sautéed squid was really fantastic
  2.  I almost fell asleep during the afternoon session
  3. Both of these experiences described above are absolutely related to ecosystem services.
In the first case, the link is direct. Marseille is a port town with a history of fishing and lively fish markets. It is one of the many communities on the Mediterranean whose economy and food is derived from the ocean. But our oceans are over-fished and its ability to provide fish to our ever growing populations cannot be taken for granted.

I heard today that no-take MPAs show a 30 percent increase in biodiversity when compared to similarly situated unprotected sites, and that there are 1.5 to 2 times more fish in them. Those fish spill out making the fishing better in proximity to MPAs.

My second experience (although you might think it is related to jetlag or the wonderful wine that was served with lunch) is indirectly linked to ocean ecosystem services. My sleepiness was actually due to attending a very popular seminar in a small room with windows did not open.  The room's oxygen was running out (at least for the purpose of this blog is what I am telling myself).

Which brings us to one of the most powerful contributions of the ocean to our planet: the phytoplankton that produces half of Earth’s oxygen. Anything that impacts the phytoplankton—such as ocean acidification—also impacts our oxygen supply.  A short walk outside helped my drowsiness enormously.

What I learned is that valuing our ocean ecosystem is not always about attaching a monetary value to the ocean's contributions (although for some things this can be done), but rather, valuation is a communication tool that allows us to better understand the contribution of oceans to our lunch and lives!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Opening ceremonies at Marseille - Achieving Oceankind

By Kim Wright

Notre-Dame de la Garde, Marseilles
The ocean, ever changing, is like the civilizations of humanity. It is mortal and it too could perish. This sentiment was shared in the opening ceremonies of the International Marine Protected Area Congress. With 1,300 participants from 19 nations participating, the congress opening plenary day aimed to create a cohesion between us and bring out our creativity.

Most of the day was spent grappling with the concept of ‘oceankind’ and how we might achieve it. Oceankind is the state society will achieve when it becomes aware of the link that binds each person to the ocean's future, wherever they may live.

The town of Marseille is overlooked by the monumental chapel Notre-Dame de la Garde, named for the Virgin Mary who has guarded the city since 1214. There are also many other military fortifications that have more literally guarded the city at the mouth of the port and on nearby islands since Marseille was founded. The need for both a guard of force and a guard of spirit, presented by these two approaches, is at the heart of oceankind. Our need to regulate, monitor and measure the sea through scientific and legal means is necessary on the one hand, but on the other, our deeper connection to the mother ocean— covering 71 percent of the planet's surface and the source of 80 percent of Earth's biodiversity—is the spirit that will carry us through to the greater appreciation for why we must protect the ocean: so she can keep us alive.

Monday, October 21, 2013

747 Blues - Idealist to Realist in 30 Seconds

By Kim Wright

Soaring above the clouds in a 747 may sound glamorous, but airline seating offers a full spectrum of suitability and so the most amazing sounding flight could amount to a less than perfect situation. So it is with Marine Protected Areas.
Marseilles at dawn from the conference centre lawn,
le Jardin du Pharo 

My childhood association with 747s include an image of James Bond with a martini on the staircase to the upper lounge. Boarding a 747 en route to Marseille, I felt a jolt of excitement. The idealist in me imagined a grand voyage. I walked past the staircase, first and business classes, and then continued all the way to the last row of economy class to my seat in row 53, next to the bank of lavatories at the tail of the plane. Settling in, I tried to find the silver lining and perhaps the message that the universe was sending to me.

I am flying to Marseille to attend the International Marine Protected Area Congress where I will do a presentation about the governance and state of protection of Canada's MPAs. The Canadian Government is proud of the suite of MPAs that only cover one percent of our ocean waters. It portrays them as the first class, 747-like ideal of protection. The reality is much more akin to my seat in the 53rd row.

Commercial fisheries are allowed in all but one of Canada’s 197 Pacific coast MPAs. In the Arctic we are cursed with an MPA that has a zone that allows oil and gas exploration within it; oil tanker routes cross our protected areas; open net-pen salmon farms and untreated sewage outfalls contaminate other protected waters.

What, you may wonder, is the protection offered by Canada's MPAs? I wonder the same thing from row 53, as I prepare to share our findings with the world in Marseilles where I hope to learn from other nations about how to beef up our standards. In the meantime, I will follow the lead of our government for a few hours at least, and pull the blanket over my head to block out the reality of my position and dream of first class.