Sharon Bol at IMPAC3

Thoughts and impressions from IMPAC3

Boneiru Duradero was invited to join WWF during IMPAC 2013. This 5 day  congress about Marine Protected Areas (MPA ‘s) held in Marseille was visited by 1200 participants from all over the world. (Yes I know, quite a big carbon footprint, but all with the best intentions to serve nature).

The aim of this congress was to share knowledge and best practices on diverse topics such as: finance, fishery, stakeholder participation, community involvement, governance, building networks with regard to the conservation of marine protected areas.

The conference started with an interesting opening day, which included to many speeches and a hilarious modern ballet portraying sea creatures. Which was clearly was not meant to be funny, so I guess modern ballet is not my thing.

There were some 36 different workshops and knowledge cafes to choose from every day. I was mostly interested in workshops about involving local communities in Marine Protected Areas.

The presentations of island communities such as Madagascar, Fiji, French Polynesia and Indonesia on this topic were an eye opener. These cultures still cling to their beautiful traditions, which is why their social cohesion (in contrast to most western cultures) is still very strong. On these islands local people are an integral part of safeguarding nature. Their shared values lead to an insight that everyone has to help to sustain nature, because the community heavily depends on nature to sustain them. The local community is trained through as system of coaches and trainers who are from that same community. Management of these MPA’s shows us that it is not just about protecting nature, but about strengthening communities, sharing knowledge, instilling pride and creating a sustainable lifestyle.

Another remarkable insight was brought forward by scientists, who work closely with local fisherman in Australia. Thereby mapping their knowledge of local waters and fish catchment. Through working together fisherman were not deprived of their livelihoods when a marine protected area was established. In some cases NO-take zones were formed. These are areas where fisherman can’t fish. In most cases fisherman were strongly against these NO-take zones. But after a few years they proved to be the strongest advocates! Through the NO- take zone the fish population gets a chance to grow back to strength, often creating a spillover effect onto other areas. So now fisherman actually see the marine protected area working to their advantage. One would hope that such an approach would also work with other sea critters?!

But what was most surprising to me as a marketeer turned “environmental helper”, was that most of the researchers, biologists and park managers are just now starting to grasp the importance of communication. I actually had to bite my tongue several times not shout: ”WELL DUH!!” at some of the remarks like: “We have to know our target audience”. Good thing I didn’t because as it turns out communication has not been on scientists agenda’s until now. So I have to applaud them for their shift in focus from just nature to a more inclusive system, where the local communities and all kinds of stakeholders are involved in the protection of nature. Thereby being much more effective.

Famous French “hospitality” aside, IMPAC was an educational, inspiring and truly positive experience!