May ended with a splash as the great and the good of the marine community descended upon Fairfax, Virginia, for the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC).
Healthy marine ecosystems, marine protected areas and climate change were at the forefront of the five-day series of workshops, presentations and symposia. Dr. Daniel Pauly, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia officially opened proceedings at the National Museum of Natural History on 20th May following a series of seminars on ocean conservation success stories from sea turtles in the Caribbean to Black Sea water quality.
IUCN’s Global Marine Program and the World Commission on Protected Areas - Marine took an active role throughout IMCC participating in a number of workshops and presentations.
“One of the real benefits from a meeting like this, where over a thousand people attend from all over the world, is to meet with colleagues, talk about common areas of interest and projects that you can pursue together,” explains Thomas Laughlin, Deputy Head of the Global Marine Program. “IMCC was a hub of creative activity and we are excited about a number of great opportunities that have risen as a result,” he adds.
Caitlyn Toropova, IUCN’s MPA Coordination Officer, announced Protect Planet Ocean’s regional Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) reviews, which were greatly received. The reviews focus on 18 regions and provide a brief snap shot of MPAs in each area. This information is then aligned with the country and regional commitments to ocean protection (e.g. the Coral Triangle Initiative and Micronesian Challenge) in order that gaps and challenges in the data may be identified and addressed so that countries can move forward and meet their commitments.
Louisa Wood, IUCN’s Technical MPA Advisor, held a series of Google Earth training sessions throughout the Congress, demonstrating how to use the ocean layer to share important MPA data.
Gabriel Grimsditch, IUCN’s coral expert, was joined by David Obura, Director of CORDIO (Coastal Oceans Research and Development) East Africa to launch a new report: Resilience Assessment of Coral Reefs - Rapid assessment protocol for coral reefs, focusing on coral bleaching and thermal stress.
And Dorothée Herr, Assistant to the Deputy Head of the Global Marine Program presented a new report that IUCN will launch in time for Copenhagen which will provide policy makers with tangible tools and guidelines for climate change.
“This meeting has been a wake up call for the marine community,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Program. “It’s a travesty that marine issues aren’t on the agenda of the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December.”
“The world’s governments must recognise the potential within the oceans to reduce carbon emissions,” adds Lundin.
Dan Laffoley, Vice-Chair of WCPA, introduced renowned oceanographer and explorer in residence at the National Geographic, Sylvia Earle, ahead of her plenary session. Earle moved audiences with her talk on the oceans connection with the economy, health, security and the very underpinnings of life itself. During her session, "Her Deepness" made reference to the work carried out by IUCN, saying that, “If IUCN didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.”
IMCC came to an end on Sunday 24th May, but the work of IUCN’s marine team continued. Memorial Day became the World Commission on Protected Areas Marine Day as many of our members and regional coordinators gathered at NOAA to discuss the outcomes of IMCC and plans for the coming years. Sylvia Earle made another appearance and talked about her TED wish, a project in which IUCN is heavily involved.