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The Coming Age of MPA Certification

January 29, 2014

This WWF inforgraphic shows MPAs in the Coral Triangle and touches briefly on what constitutes effective MPA design. CLICK for a larger version.

We’ve got a certification for forest products (FSC), wild-caught fish products (MSC), and aquaculture products (ASC). But what about a certification program for a non-consumer good?  That there gets interesting. I’m not entirely convinced that certification for MPAs would work, but it might with a little tinkering. Because of this, I’m quite excited to read a new article on “The Coming Age of MPA Certification?” from MPA News.  I recommend you read the entire thing, but is the essential summary.

[T]wo new programs promise to open the door to what could be a new age of wide-scale certification in the MPA world. Designed to provide an incentive for stronger MPA management worldwide, the programs are taking two distinct approaches: The Green List, developed by IUCN and partners, will assess whether an MPA’s management is effectively meeting its conservation goals. In short, the program is assessing management effectiveness. Sites that meet the criteria will be added to a list of approved MPAs – the Green List. The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) developed by the Marine Conservation Institute (a US-based NGO), will convene a coalition of partners to build scientific criteria for “strongly protected marine areas”, then assess whether an MPA meets those criteria. In essence, GLORES is assessing conservation rigor. Sites that meet the criteria, judged on a sliding scale, will earn a ranking depending on their rigor.

The discussion in the article says that these programs are still in development.  I suspect that the designers are very carefully considering the incentive to MPA managers to bother with certification.  Certification has costs. So what’s the return to the management regime? This is a challenge even in the MSC, which has clearly demonstrated benefits. In my mind, the benefit to MPA managers could be the receipt of a grant to further streamline/improve the management at a well-run MPA. One requirement for receipt of funds could be that the key lessons for management are written up for other MPAs to implement.

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