Experts caution that 30×30 must not be rushed and compromise trust of small-scale fishers

By Maya Pfaff, Annika Mackensen, Carina Martens, Deidre de Vos and Arthur Tuda

On 5th October 2023, WIOMSA and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) hosted a webinar to highlight the challenges and opportunities related to the current race for “30×30”. The event brought together representatives of governments and conservation NGOs with small-scale fishers and community rights advocates from Africa and beyond.  A lively discussion ignited on how the new conservation agenda ­­– set by the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in December 2022 – will consider the interests of those that are most directly affected by it: local communities and small-scale fishers.

 What is 30×30?

 With the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at COP15 in Montreal in December 2022, the world has embarked on bending the curve of biodiversity loss following 23 Action Targets. Arguably the most debated is Target 3, commonly referred to as “30×30”, which aims at effectively conserving and managing at least 30% of the Earth’s area by 2030. With currently only ~8 % of marine spaces under formal – and often ineffective – protection, the challenge is huge, given the short time and insufficient resources available.

What are OECMs?

Complementary to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) 30% areal target of the GBF can also be achieved by recognising Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs). These are areas that offer long-term benefits for biodiversity through governance/management structures that do not necessarily have nature conservation as primary objective. Cultural or military sites, for example, where human uses are prohibited, offer protection for biodiversity as spin-off. To count them towards the 30×30 goal through the World Database of OECMs (WD-OECMs), however, they need to be assessed according to a set of criteria and get consent from governing authorities.

 Keynote presentations

 Estradivari, an Indonesian researcher based at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine research (ZMT, Germany) and distinguished expert in Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs), began the webinar with a presentation on “FILLING THE CONSERVATION GAP: An opportunity to recognize and support marine OECMs for small scale fishers”, highlighting the importance of OECMs in marine conservation. Based on her experience of partaking in the process of recognising marine OECMs in Indonesia, she shed light on how these innovative measures can effectively protect critical marine areas and enhance biodiversity, while providing small-scale fishers an opportunity for strengthening management rights and fostering local leadership.

Hugh Govan, a renowned authority on locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs), reflected on “25 YEARS OF COMMUNITY-BASED MANGEMENT IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS: LMMAs, SMAs, CBFM, VBRM, ICCAs, OECMs and other acronyms”. Based on his experience with forming the LMMA Network, a rapidly growing association of 1028 communities in the Pacific, he emphasised that customary tenure is a very good way of achieving long-term sustainability, particularly in countries where governments cannot ensure effective enforcement of protection measures. He cautioned that – while many LMMAs fulfil the criteria for being OECMs – the 30×30 debate is a distraction to existing stewardship initiatives. Introducing yet another promising conservation tool without the much-needed resources to uplift communities could easily lead to disappointment among small-scale fishers. Instead, effort should go into building the trust that is fundamental for successful co-management of marine resources.

Panel discussion

Following the keynote presentations, a thought-provoking panel discussion ensued. The panel featured the keynote speakers and two distinguished experts: Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, small-scale fisheries advocate of Madagascar and Regional Coastal Oceans Governance Manager (IUCN) and Stephen Kirkman, marine researcher and policy advisor at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, South Africa. The panel tackled a series of critical questions:

  • Can the 30×30 target be realistically achieved for African oceans and coasts, and if so, how?
  • How can Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) contribute to 30×30?
  • What insights and lessons can be shared for implementing marine OECMs?
  • What’s in it for small-scale fishers?
  • How can development cooperation facilitate relevant processes?

Key Takeaways & recommendations

 The webinar emphasized the urgent need for integrating conservation efforts with the interests of small-scale fishers. By doing so, a balance can be achieved between sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

  • LMMAs were highlighted as a successful approach to marine management in the Pacific Islands. These areas, which are under some form of community-based management or co-management with government or NGOs, have demonstrated their effectiveness in improving coastal livelihoods and enhancing sustainability.
  • Governments play a crucial role in supporting and recognizing community-based conservation efforts. They need to address external threats, provide funding and resources, and cooperate with regional environmental organizations.
  • To reach 30×30 in marine spaces, African countries need to:
    • improve understanding and communication about OECMs,
    • conduct national scoping studies to find out which existing area-based management measures can potentially be recognised as OECMs, and
    • initiate/maintain discussions among policymakers and stakeholders for the participatory design of OECM frameworks.
  • Regarding 30×30, the key message was:
    • DON’T RUSH the process if it means compromising long-term benefits to people and nature!

Way Forward & follow-up events

 The webinar concluded with a call to action. It emphasized the importance of setting realistic timelines targets for each country and the need to make conservation measures accessible to local communities. Effective communication and funding mechanisms were highlighted as key elements in achieving the 30×30 goal.

The organizers, GIZ and WIOMSA, have outlined several follow-up actions, including:

  • WIOMSA in collaboration with FAO will host and online webinar entitled, “Introductory Webinar on Fisheries-Related Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures in the Southwest Indian Ocean”, on the 15ht of March 2024. The aim of the online webinar is to unpack Nature-Based Solutions, like fisheries related OECMs in the SWIO region as potential measures to support the “30×30” target.
  • The Western Indian Ocean Marine Protected Aare Network (WIOMPAN) and WIOMSA, in collaboration with multiple partners, will host the “WIOMPAN Learning Workshop”. The workshop will be the first regional workshop to bring together Marine Protected Area and OECM practitioners in the WIO region to discuss the challenges that hinder the achievement of the “30×30” target and existing solutions that promote it. Bringing together government-MPA, co-managed area and community-area practitioners, the workshop will be the first step in developing a WIO regional workshop to increase management effectiveness for marine conservation areas.
  • Training workshops will be tailored and developed to increase the efficiency of marine conservation areas including OECMS across the region. The Nairobi Convention convened the Western Indian Ocean Science to Policy Platform (SPP), a multi-stakeholder platform comprising representatives of formal and informal knowledge-generating institutions, practitioners, policymakers, communities and the private sector within the WIO region. It serves as an intermediary body to bridge the gaps between science and policy. Under the SPP, publications are developed with WIOMSA as part of the Western Indian Ocean Science to Policy Platform Series. An article will be submitted on OECMs and their potential contribution to the “30×30” target in the WIO.



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