MaPP: Collaborating to support healthy oceans
“You’re doing well, you should be proud” – I’m paraphrasing here, these encouraging words from one Charles “Bud” Ehler, author, consultant with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and widely credited as the world’s leading voice for conservation-based marine planning. The words came a couple years ago, at a workshop where I and several dozen participants from coastal communities were struggling to come up with ways of measuring how human well-being depends on the marine environment. This was one of the many waypoints in the long consultative process that fed into the creation of the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) plans.
Bud would know – in his role with UNESCO he is a regular advisor on marine planning efforts around the globe and he’s seen it all. He went on to remind the (somewhat wearied) roomful that the MaPP process was in his experience, one of the most “ground up” efforts he’d ever seen. If anything, we were sweating the small stuff and not giving ourselves a pat on the back for getting the big picture basically right. It was a good reminder.
Fast forward 2 years, and the MaPP plans are finally endorsed. The plans lay the foundation for stronger conservation for 102,000 km2 of Canada’s Pacific. There are really two cornerstones to this foundation: first, the plans are the product of years of work to assemble scientific, traditional and local ecological knowledge about the region. Second, the plans are based on the values that underpin economic and cultural wellbeing for the communities most affected by decisions that impact the coastal environment. Combining the two and adding a dash of common sense, the plans make recommendations on how to manage across human activities – from coastal forestry to tourism to energy, fishing, and more – such that the ecosystem remains strong and resilient.
This in a nutshell is what is driving the shift toward more integrated management of oceans – a shift that is occurring globally along with increased attention to the need for and value of marine protected areas, where impacts from human activities are further minimized. Australia has a strong track record in marine planning, establishing the Great Barrier Marine Park in 1975, and more recently the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, which is still developing a management plan. Norway’s Barents Sea-Loften also has a sophisticated management plan in place, while the U.K., U.S., and other countries have all embarked on integrated oceans management as well. In BC, marine planning is deliberately based on an approach that situates healthy ecosystems as the core value to be maintained – this is called – “Ecosystem Based Management” or EBM.
Unique among marine planning efforts globally, the MaPP plans have been strongly driven by First Nations’ traditional use planning. Many of the principles espoused by EBM reflect the values that are part of First Nations’ cultural ethic around stewardship. As such, the MaPP plans open up a space in which a wider set of values can collaborate with the shared goal of supporting healthy oceans now and for future generations.
WWF is proud to have been a part of getting these plans to the finish line. Now the work begins to put these plans into actions through legislation, policy, and management.