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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?     

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