Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Fully Protected

$1 Million Grant to Support World’s 3rd Largest Fully Protected Area…


Stephanie Ramirez | 212.784.5704| sramirez@groupgordon.com
Elana Rueven | 212.784.5723| erueven@groupgordon.com


$1 Million Grant To Support World’s 3rd Largest Fully Protected Area
Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands To Be Fully Protected Beginning January 2015

New York, NY – September 25, 2014 – Today, the Waitt Foundation and Oceans 5, in close partnership with the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, agreed to make a joint grant of $1 million to support implementation of Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). The PIPA will be fully protected by January 2015, when the government will exclude commercial fishing vessels from a 410,000 square kilometer area, spanning nearly the size of California. The joint grant of $1 million per year over the next five years will support management, monitoring, and enforcement of the area.

pipa-wf-o5-final.jpg“Science tells us that no-take marine parks are good for the planet, good for people, and good for economies. The Pacific Ocean has become an exciting focus for marine conservation this year,” said Ted Waitt, Chairman of the Waitt Foundation and member of the Oceans 5 board. “Pacific Island nations like Kiribati are demonstrating unprecedented leadership in protecting their oceans for future generations. We’re delighted and inspired to help.”

Kiribati President Anote Tong announced his intent to fully protect the Phoenix Islands at the June 2014 “Our Ocean” conference sponsored by United States Department of State and Secretary of State John Kerry.  The governments of Palau and the Cook Islands both announced similar, significant commitments, while President Obama relayed his intent to consider sizable new protections for US ocean waters. Following the June conference these nations, along with many other small island developing states around the world, strongly encouraged the US and other developed nations to show similar global leadership in creating fully-protected marine parks.

The joint grant is to the PIPA Trust, an independent nonprofit organization that provides financial support to the Government of Kiribati. It will support staff salaries, enforcement activities, equipment, capacity building, and an independent evaluator to monitor progress. The PIPA includes a small subsistence fishing area around the island of Kanton for the local community.

About The Waitt Foundation
The Waitt Foundation (www.waittfoundation.org), established by Gateway, Inc. co-founder Ted Waitt in 1993, specializes in public-private partnership and supports a variety of national and international programs concentrating on ocean health.  Partnering with unique coalitions of government, foundations & philanthropists, NGOs, academics, and business, the Waitt Foundation supports high impact projects with the ultimate aim to “restore our oceans to full productivity.”

About Oceans 5
Oceans 5 is an international funders’ collaborative comprised of new and experienced philanthropists dedicated to protecting the world’s five oceans. Oceans 5 is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. Projects are focused on stopping overfishing and establishing marine reserves, the two highest ecological priorities identified by marine scientists. Oceans 5 is inspired by opportunities, particularly ones that can bring lasting benefits to coastal communities. For more information, please visit http://oceans5.org.

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For more information on the Phoenix Island Protected Area, please use the links below.

pipa-logo_0.jpgPIPA Website


Argentine Patagonia

Conserving wildlife by creating and strengthening protected areas on shore and at sea…


Grant Recipient: Wildlife Conservation Society
Project Support: Marine Expansion of Coastal Protected Areas in Argentina
Term: 2012/2013

Argentina’s coastal and ocean environments are unique due to the extended and relatively shallow continental shelf. The system supports a variety of resident and visiting charismatic species, such as southern right whales, southern elephant seals, Magellanic penguins and black-browed albatrosses, among many others. Argentina has a system of coastal protected areas but the marine component is almost negligible. During the last few years, this reality has begun to change and there are attempts to improve the representation of the marine environment in the protected area system.

Project Goals

This project seeks to conserve wildlife on the coast of Argentine Patagonia by creating and strengthening protected areas in key sites on shore and at sea. These areas will form part of a network with explicit connectivity between coastal and offshore habitats that will increase protection for the large and unique populations of marine birds, mammals, and fish that depend on this marine ecosystem.

Priority areas: Península Valdés, Punta Tombo, Golfo San Jorge, Isla Pingüino, Monte León, Is. de los Estados, and Burdwood Bank.

WCS will provide the information needed to support the creation of the proposed protected areas and fill essential knowledge gaps where required. They will work with provincial governors and their technical staff, as well as the Federal Government, to draft legislation for the creation of these protected areas. Further, WCS will work with legislators in the House of Representatives of the respective provinces and Argentina’s National Congress to assist and shepherd the legislation process. This process will include the provision of essential information and technical capacity to provincial and national protected area managers, and will guide coastal conservation and management in the region. New policies for marine ecosystem conservation, a Southern Cone Marine Atlas, and a web site publically sharing distribution of key coastal and marine species and habitats will be valuable outputs.

Because of its 40-year presence in Argentina, its well-regarded contributions to conservation, and the connections it has built with the Argentine Government over this time, WCS is in a unique position to develop and deliver this multi-pronged strategy for increasing wildlife protection across the multiple governmental jurisdictions on the coast of Argentine Patagonia.

Field Expertise

Dr. Claudio Campagna has been a member of the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) and a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society since the early 1980s. He lives and works in Patagonia, Argentina. His specialty is the social behavior of marine mammals, particularly seals and sea lions. In the 1990s, he was part of the team that conducted the Patagonian Coastal Zone Management Plan funded by GEF-UNDP. The latter was the first attempt to integrate management of an extended coastal area in Argentina and one of the first in South America. Today he is promoting the Sea and Sky project, a vision of an oceanic reserve along the border of the Patagonian continental shelf. He divides his present conservation interests between Sea and Sky and understanding the ideological aspects of the conservation movement.

Claudio is a Wildlife Conservation Society conservation zoologist, with an MD from the University of Buenos Aires and a PhD in animal behavior from the University of California at Santa Cruz. For his work on the conservation of the Patagonian Sea, he has been elected a Pew Fellow in marine conservation. Claudio divides his efforts into three areas: field research on the biology of marine mammals, conducted at Peninsula Valdes (Argentina); conservation work; and writing essays and fiction. He is convinced of the urgent need to promote the conservation agenda using creative communication tools. Claudio has been published widely in scientific literature, served on the SSC Steering Committee between 2004 and 2008, is Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Marine Conservation Sub-Committee, and is a member of the Pinniped Specialist Group. 

Dr. Claudio Campagna - WCS / Marine Mammals


WCS, Argentina’s Waters
WCS, Patagonia
WCS Website


Antarctica Marine Reserves

Preserving one of the last pristine places largely undisturbed by humans…


The oceans around Antarctica are not owned by any one nation. They are in international waters belonging to us all. They are among the most pristine waters in the world, and due to their remote location and extreme weather conditions, one of the last places on the planet largely untouched by human activity. Photo: John Weller

Grant Recipient:  Oceans 5
Project Support:  Establishing Marine Reserves in Antarctica
Term:  2011 - 2014

Oceans occupy more than 70 percent of our planet. According to marine scientists, however, nothing is as fundamentally damaging to marine ecosystems as overfishing. Constraining overfishing and establishing marine reserves are among the most important actions that can be taken to protect and restore the world’s oceans. These actions are the focus of Oceans 5.

An unprecedented and significant opportunity to establish large marine reserves exists in marine waters surrounding Antarctica. This opportunity is particularly unique because it involves international waters beyond the jurisdiction of any one nation. Hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of ecologically important and relatively pristine ocean waters are at stake.

The Antarctic Opportunity


These waters are home to 15,500 species, many of which can be found nowhere else on Earth, including Adelie and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrals and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, and South Pacific Wedddell seals. Photo: John Weller

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has binding international authority in the waters of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. In 2005, CCAMLR committed to establish a network of representative marine protected areas by 2012 and subsequently, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) was launched in October 2011. The Ross Sea and three large no-take reserves in East Antarctica are among eleven areas under active consideration in CCAMLR’s scientific process.

The Ross Sea is a great wilderness that few humans have seen firsthand. It provides critical habitat for hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish, and invertebrates, including 38% of the world’s Adélie penguins and 26% of the world’s emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels, Antarctic minke whales, Arnoux’s beaked whales (found only in the Southern Ocean), killer whales, Weddell seals, crabeater seals, leopard seals, and colossal squid, among others. It is also a haven for endemic species of fish and invertebrates.

No marine system in the world remains completely undisturbed by humans. But to date, the Ross Sea has sustained less damage than almost any other open ocean ecosystem. There has been no widespread pollution; no mineral extraction (prohibited under terms of the Antarctic Treaty); its fish have not yet been depleted beyond recovery; it has not experienced large anoxic dead zones; and there is no evidence to date of alien species introductions. Importantly, it contains a full suite of top predators. With the exception of blue whales (which were killed in large numbers during the heyday of commercial whaling), the natural predators that existed in the Ross Sea before the arrival of humans are at or close to their historical levels.

Campaign Goals

This campaign will focus on communicating two principal public objectives:

1) A no-take marine reserve in the Ross Sea, including the continental slope to a depth of 3,000 meters. This would secure protection for almost 650,000 square kilometers or roughly two percent of the Southern Ocean; and,

2) Three large no-take marine reserves in East Antarctic waters and several additional areas along the Peninsula. These additional areas in East Antarctica and along the Peninsula could potentially include several hundred thousand square kilometers.

The success of this campaign should be judged as to whether it secures a no-take reserve of at least 500,000 square kilometers in the Ross Sea and at least 200,000 square kilometers in other areas by the end of 2013. Such an accomplishment would be a remarkable success for the world’s oceans. It would become the largest network of marine reserves on Earth. They would be the largest in areas beyond national jurisdiction and this will occur in one of the most unique, ecologically sensitive areas in the world.


In 1991, the international community declared a 50-year moratorium on mining and other commercial exploration on the land of Antarctica, that protection did not extend to the oceans, leaving it exposed to increasing pressure from oil and gas exploitation. Photo: John Weller

Campaign Update

During the course of 2012 AOA has established a fast paced, focused and international campaign, spanning four continents. They launched their first report on the Ross Sea in New Zealand in February 2012, their Circumpolar report in London in May 2012 and their report on the East Antarctic Coastal Region in Australia in September 2012. AOA has also had campaign launches in China and Korea during the year.

The online work has grown exponentially, with 174,000 people signing the AOA on-line petition and over 1.2 million people taking action around the world. They have attracted celebrity endorsement and help from Leonardo DiCaprio, Ed Norton, Sam Neill, Ted Danson, Dr Sylvia Earle, Sir Richard Branson, and Yoo Jie-Tae (a famous Korean actor).

At CCAMLR XXXI in Hobart in October 2012 the campaign came extremely close to winning the first two MPAs in the network – 1.6 million km2 in the Ross Sea (a fully no take area) and 1.9 million km2 in East Antarctica. However due to resistance from Russia, China and the Ukraine, the meeting failed to reach consensus. On a positive note, the Alliance and partners were instrumental in achieving consistent external and internal pressure on the decision makers, which resulted in agreement for an extraordinary intercessional of the Science Committee and the Commission in July 2013 (only the second time this has happened in 30 years).

Having established a campaign presence in Beijing and Moscow in 2012, the team will be redoubling efforts in those capitals, whilst maintaining their established work in other countries, in order to press for decisions at the earliest possible moment in 2013. AOA will also establish a presence in South America. They will be holding a strategy meeting with all partners in Hong Kong in January 2013, and pushing on for a major result this year. From 2013 to 2014 a number of other proposals are expected to emerge for the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea.

About Oceans 5

Oceans 5 is a global funder’s collaborative, comprised of new and experienced philanthropists, committed to protecting the five oceans of the planet. The group collectively focuses its investments and support on large-scale, opportunistic projects and campaigns aimed at significantly expanding marine reserves and constraining overfishing.


Oceans 5 Website
Antarctic Ocean Alliance Website


While other marine ecosystems are being threatened and destroyed by development, pollution, mining, oil and gas exploitation, and overfishing, Antarctica's Ross Sea - often referred to as the "Serengeti" of the seas - remains one of the most intact ecosystems on the planet, with large populatiouns of top predators present. Photo: John Weller


New Alliance calls for unprecedented protection for Antarctica’s oceans


WASHINGTON, DC, 29 February 2012 – The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, an international collective of environmental organizations and high-profile supporters, have come together to call for the world’s largest network of marine protected areas and no-take marine reserves to be established to protect Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.


The Alliance’s public campaign “Join the Watch”, launched around the world today, is inviting a global audience to participate in the campaign and its call for Antarctic marine protection.


Alliance members and supporters include actor, activist and UN Biodiversity Ambassador Edward Norton, Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, as well as 16 environmental and conservation organizations including Greenpeace, WWF, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Oceans 5 and Mission Blue.


The regulatory body responsible for this region – the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – has agreed to create a network of marine protected areas in some of the ocean around Antarctica. However, CCAMLR meets with limited public participation and no media access and the Alliance believes that, without public attention during the process, only minimal protection will be achieved.


“The fate of the Antarctic marine environment is about to be decided and the world knows nothing about it,” said Alliance Campaign Director Steve Campbell. “Now is the time to protect this amazing environment but we’ll need the global public involved to make that happen.”


In agreeing to “Join the Watch”, Edward Norton said, “There’s a moment of opportunity here to apply pressure and send a signal that millions of people are watching this process and are saying, ’Don’t let us down.’”                                                                       


Antarctic waters make up almost 10% of the world’s seas and are some of the most pristine left on earth. Home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species such as penguins, seals and whales, these waters are now at risk from the impacts of commercial fishing and climate change. The Alliance is calling for 19 critical habitats in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean to be protected, starting with the Ross Sea.


The group released a report in New Zealand today entitled: “Antarctic Ocean Legacy: A marine reserve for the Ross Sea” at a reception for Parliamentarians in Wellington. The report provides the rationale for protection of the Ross Sea region. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance proposal builds on and strengthens the current Ross Sea scenarios of the US and New Zealand governments, encompassing three additional areas with environmental features and critical habitats for the protection of this unique ocean ecosystem. If established, it would be the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, totalling 3.6 million square kilometres.

“The waters of Antarctica have become attractive for industrial scale fishing because fish close to where people live really don’t exist in large numbers anymore,” said Dr. Sylvia Earle. “We know we have a problem, we now need to do something about it – that’s why we are calling on people to “Join the Watch” to help protect this amazing environment.”


The Alliance is launching a video today featuring interviews with Edward Norton and Sylvia Earle asking the public to sign a petition to CCAMLR calling for large-scale marine protection for Antarctica and “Join the Watch”.


Michael Holland, Edelman: 212 642 7760

Blair Palese, AOA: +61414659511


Abrolhos Seascape MPA Expansion

Expanding the boundaries and creating the largest no-take MPA in the Southern Atlantic…

CI_Abrolhos Coast

Conservation International expedition to Abrolhos region, Bahia, Brazil

Grant Recipient:  Conservation International
Project Support:  
The Abrolhos Seascape - Expansion and Creation of New MPAs, including the largest no-take MPA in the Southern Atlantic Ocean
Term:  2009 - 2012

The Abrolhos Region is a coral reef hotspot located in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Bahia and Espírito Santo states in Brazil. The area comprises a mosaic of marine and coastal ecosystems and encompasses the largest reef area and the highest marine biodiversity in the Southern Atlantic, harboring a multitude of unique and threatened species. The central threats to the Abrolhos region are overfishing, illegal fishing, shrimp farming, oil and gas exploitation, climate change, and sedimentation from river runoff, which combine to imperil the very survival of this unique ecosystem. Working closely with local communities, Conservation International has played a leading role in protecting and expanding the MPA network.

Conservation Planning

CI_Abrolhos Masked Booby

Masked Booby: The Abrolhos archipelago is an important nesting ground for a number of seabirds.

Conservation International (CI) has been working closely with NGOs, communities, and the Brazilian government to understand and protect this important ecosystem and to establish an Abrolhos Seascape. The work is focused on developing a systematic conservation planning process and analyzing physical, biological, and socioeconomic data, as well as conducting a cost-benefit analysis of different conservation scenarios. Building on this work, CI proposes to create 2 new, large MPAs–a multiple-use MPA covering the entire region to provide large-scale governance and a Wildlife Refuge to protect the breeding site for humpback whales–and to expand the Abrolhos National Park to include newly discovered reefs, algae banks, and geologic formations as no-take zones. This project aims to expand the boundaries of the Abrolhos National Park by more than 10 times, which would make it the largest no-take MPA in the Southern Atlantic

In 2010, Brazil signed a commitment to protect at least 10 percent of its EEZ, or the area of the ocean under Brazil’s jurisdiction extending 200 nautical miles from its coastline, by 2020. There is an expectation that the Brazilian government will have made significant progress toward this goal by the June 2012 Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. CI aims to take advantage of this unrivaled, imminent opportunity to build upon ongoing work and processes to significantly increase the amount of marine area under protection.

Marine Conservation Model & Community Impact

The biodiversity of Abrolhos is threatened by overfishing, the negative effects of climate change, shrimp farming, and oil and gas exploitation - CI will focus on these threats. A fully functioning MPA network, integrated into a comprehensive management regime, is a strong tool for addressing these threats. Existing extractive reserves, co-managed by communities and government agencies, have produced impressive results: within multiple-use protected areas, fish abundance has increased, and a spill-over effect from no-take reserves has led to increased fish abundance in other areas; reef systems and mangroves are protected from large development projects (shrimp farming and oil and ci_abrolhos-map-2.jpggas drilling); and social engagement has improved. The Cassurubá community asked CI to help them establish a marine extractive reserve based on the outcomes from other protected areas. CI’s continuous monitoring of marine resources and resource users, in partnership with Brazilian universities, has been a key component in measuring conservation impacts and evaluating management needs.

CI’s goal for the region is to strengthen and expand the Abrolhos MPA network into a resilient system that will be adaptively co-managed by government authorities, NGOs, and local communities to conserve biodiversity and fisheries over the long term. Through this project, CI will generate new data and from this, will re-frame the overall picture of biodiversity, marine communities, and fisheries on the Abrolhos Shelf to inform the design of the proposed expansion of the Abrolhos National Park. The synthesis will provide knowledge about key features and ecological processes that managers can use to improve park protection and enhance the sustainability of resources drawn from the Shelf ecosystem as a whole. It will also support a resilience analysis for developing a strategy of climate change adaptation in the region, where the new MPAs will be designed considering future scenarios. 

The outcome of this project will have a direct impact on 3,000 traditional fishing families in addition to 17,000 other families, who depend on the environmental services provided by the Abrolhos MPA network (fisheries, natural attraction for tourism, carbon sequestration, etc.) and indirectly derive benefits from healthy ecosystems. Accomplishing this goal for Abrolhos will also foster the development of national guidelines and provide successful case studies for promoting marine conservation in other regions along the country’s more than 8,000 km of coastline.


Underwater Wonders: Abrolhos is home to some of the world's most unique and threatened corals. Since the species have long since vanished from other parts of the region, these corals are on the front line of extinction.

Staff Expertise

Guilherme F. Dutra, M.Sc., Director of CI-Brazil’s Marine Program, leads the project. He is a biologist who has led marine conservation efforts in Abrolhos for 15 years and played a key role in creating the three marine extractive reserves in Abrolhos, strongly involving local communities in these conservation decisions. Throughout his decade and a half of work in the region, Mr. Dutra has led the implementation of 35 projects and has accumulated significant technical and management experience. He is a Pew Fellow for Marine Conservation candidate for 2012; if selected, his main goals will be to expand the Abrolhos MPA Network and to replicate its impact on a national scale.

Les Kaufman, Ph.D., CI Senior Marine Scientist and Professor in the Boston University Marine Program, will be the project’s Principal Investigator. He is an evolutionary ecologist studying basic processes that drive the creation, collapse, and conservation of aquatic species diversity on coral reefs and tropical great lakes. He is currently leading a research team that develops models of ecosystem services delivery and trade-offs in heavily populated coastal ecosystems. The models are practical tools for ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning. Kaufman is also a Research Scholar with The New England Aquarium and Associate in Ichthyology, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, serves on the Science and Statistics Committee for the New England Fishery Management Council, and is working with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) colleagues to modernize federal ocean science. Kaufman also writes popular books, magazine articles, and television content, including multiple stints as either author or subject with NOVA and National Geographic. He was awarded the first marine Pew Fellowship in 1990 and was selected to receive the Parker-Gentry Award in Conservation Biology for 2011 from the Chicago Field Museum.

Eduardo Camargo, M.Sc., Manager of CI-Brazil’s Marine Program, will oversee project implementation. Eduardo has been in the region for nine years, previously serving as coordinator of the Humpback Whale Institute before joining CI in May 2011. He will help organize logistics and formal procedures for the field work, as well as participate in the technical planning for the marine surveys.

Make a Difference

Each of us has a role to play in ensuring the future health and well-being of all the people, animals, plants and ecosystems on the planet. Find out how Conservation International can help you Make a Difference.

About Conservation International

Conservation International (CI) builds upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration to empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature and the well-being of humanity. Founded in 1987, CI works at every level—from remote villages to the offices of presidents and premiers—to help move whole societies toward a smarter development path. Through science, policy and field work, they assist communities, countries and societies to protect tropical forests, lush grasslands, rivers, wetlands, abundant lakes and the sea.


Conservation International Web siteci-logo-2012.jpg
Conservation International - Global Marine
Abrolhos MPA Network in Brazil


Bahamas MPA Expansion

Using innovative strategies for lasting protection of the islands…


An archipelago of islands comprise the Bahamas; shown here, aerial of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Photo: Jonathan Kerr

Grant Recipient: The Nature Conservancy
Project Support: Expanding Marine Protection Across the Bahamas
2011 - 2013

The Bahamas is a string of nearly 700 islands stretching 100,000 square miles from the Florida Keys to Hispaniola, home to the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Bahamian islands are rich in marine life and replete with pine forests and a wealth of species found here and nowhere else on Earth.

The Nature Conservancy has been working in The Bahamas for more than 10 years with the government and a variety of partners to protect its natural resources for its people to use today and into the future. The Bahamas is now embarking on an ambitious project to build political support and garner long-term financing for protected areas across the Caribbean – The Caribbean Challenge.

The Caribbean Challenge

Marine protected areas are the cornerstone of the Caribbean Challenge, a regional effort to protect 20 percent of the Caribbean’s marine and coastal habitat by 2020. The Caribbean Challenge will transform the region’s national park system and triple the amount of protected marine and coastal habitat, including nearly 21 million acres of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and other important habitat. Since the launch of the project, marine protected area coverage across the Insular Caribbean has increased from 7 to nearly 10 percent.


Fish, lobster and conch populations have improved in waters outside the no-take zone and the park also provides important habitat for endangered animals. Photo: Jeff Yonover

Last year, more than 3.5 million acres (about half the size of Colorado) of new and expanded regional marine parks were added to the network. Of these, more than one million acres are part of The Bahamas’ new or expanded MPAs, the most significant being Andros Westside National Park, Conception Island and Fowl Cays National Parks and the Bimini, Berry Island and Exuma marine reserves. With the addition of Andros alone, which supports some of the highest concentrations of sea turtles and juvenile fish ever observed, The Bahamas more than doubled its marine protected areas network.


Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park draws thousands of visitors each year. Its healthy reefs and pristine beaches support thriving tourism-based businesses. Photo: Jeff Yonover

These are critical conservation gains, especially within such a short period of time. Yet, the government is reluctant to add any new MPAs until the most recently declared parks have adequate staff, boundaries marked and proper management in place. Natural resource managers also need to build the connection between MPAs and successful fisheries, as the Bimini and Berry Islands reserves are starting to do. As The Bahamas holds a leadership position within the Caribbean Challenge, its accomplishments influence the actions of the other Challenge nations. It is essential, therefore, that The Bahamas not only maintain but increase its conservation momentum.

The Opportunity

The Nature Conservancy is working with the government to make these new protected areas fully functional by employing signage, staff and infrastructure as well as implementing the science, constituency building and communication needed to continue The Bahamas’ rapid MPA expansion. To achieve these results, this project aims for the following:

1) Consolidate Management at the Recently Declared MPAs

The Conservancy has been working on Andros for many years without a physical presence, which is very inefficient. As one of the first actions, TNC will establish a formal presence in a community adjacent to the Andros MPA to build community awareness of the area’s conservation needs; develop partner skills by providing on-site experience and expertise; and implement initiatives related both to the recent Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management (IWCAM) Project recommendations as well as the establishment of a coral nursery.

In Bimini (and a lesser extent South Berry) TNC will collaborate with the Department of Marine Resources to implement management plans for these two areas while working with constituents to establish stronger stewardship and outreach for effective management of the sites.

2) Expand and Secure New MPA Declarations

TNC will work with the government and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) to create new MPAs in San Salvador, Abaco and Cay Sal Bank and, with BNT and other partners, rally support for the MPAs in the San Salvador and Abaco communities that are directly impacted. The scientific research and assessments have identified these as priority areas for conservation.


A conch shell just below the water surface at Warderick Wells Cay in the Bahamas Cays Land & Sea Park. TNC works closely with partners such as the Bahamas National Trust and the government of the Bahamas to protect the marine habitats. Photo: Mark Godfrey / TNC

Project Implementation

The project will be implemented by Eleanor Phillips, The Nature Conservancy’s Northern Caribbean Program Director. Eleanor is one of the Conservancy’s leading marine conservation practitioners and, according to Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux, “a national treasure.” Since joining the Conservancy in 2003, Eleanor has worked from The Bahamas Program office in Nassau, leading a multidisciplinary team working in partnership with government and non-governmental organizations in The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands to achieve effective conservation of natural resources for those countries. Eleanor is leading efforts towards implementation of a Master Plan for Protected Areas for The Bahamas Protected Areas System and is charged with supporting The Bahamas towards meeting their goals in the Caribbean Challenge. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Eleanor worked for eleven years with The Bahamas Department of Fisheries, and managed two privately-owned Tilapia farms.

Eleanor Phillips, Program Director, North Caribbean Program at The Nature Conservancy, explains the importance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in The Bahamas.

Project Update

Before leaving office in May 2012, Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham increased Andros West Side National Park by more than 1 million acres. He also established the Fowl Cays National Park on Abaco and expanded Conception Island National Park.

The Conservancy and its partners recently installed an in-situ coral reef nursery in Andros Island’s Small Hope Bay, located within park boundaries. The nursery houses 150 fragments of endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals. Andros Island will also soon have a permanent conservation presence as the new administration recently granted Conservancy partners Nature’s Hope for Southern Andros and the Andros Conservancy and Trust permission to renovate an abandoned public building on South Andros to serve as The Nature’s Hope Conservation Center.

Expanding the MPA network is crucial for protecting marine resources, but equally important is bringing effective management to established, but languishing, protected areas or “paper parks” including the South Berry Islands Marine Reserve. A science-based community-vetted management plan is a blueprint for this on-the-ground transformation. By the end of 2012, Conservancy consultants will have submitted final Management, Zoning and Communications plans for South Berry Island Marine Reserve. Soon after, the Conservancy will direct its efforts toward implementation of the management plan’s priority actions – including installing basic infrastructure and acquiring key protection equipment. This management plan will be used as a template for management plan development at other MPAs around the country.

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. They address the most pressing conservation threats at the largest scale. TNC has protected more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide — they operate more than 100 marine conservation projects globally. TNC works in all 50 states and more than 30 countries — protecting habitats from grasslands to coral reefs, from Australia to Alaska to Zambia.

Aided by more than 700 scientists, they use science to establish conservation priorities and address environmental threats. With the support of more than a million members, the Conservancy pursues a non-confrontational, solutions-based approach to dealing with 21st century environmental challenges, with a focus on freshwater, marine, climate change, working landscapes and conservation areas.


The Nature Conservancy Website
The Caribbean Challenge


Cabrera National Park Expansion

Protecting and preserving its biodiversity…


The Mediterranean Sea is considered one of the main hot spots of biodiversity on the planet. It harbors a wide variety of endemic species, and the existence of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species in this sea has been widely proven.

Grant Recipient: Oceana
Project Support: Campaign to Extend Cabrera National Park
Term: 2011 - 2013

Oceana aims to expand the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Cabrera National Park in Spain’s Balearic Islands, including development of a suitable management plan. At this time, Oceana has a significant opportunity to build on Oceana’s previous scientific research and extensive advocacy to achieve protection of the important marine area that currently lies outside of Cabrera National Park. Oceana will pursue two avenues to achieve the goal. Primarily, Oceana will ask Spain to expand the National Park boundaries. At the same time, they will also seek inclusion of the area within the EU framework of marine protected areas, to reinforce designation by Spain.

About Cabrera National Park


The Balearic Island archipelago is located in the western Mediterranean Sea off Spain’s eastern coast. The archipelago consists of three major islands (Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza) with other small islands such as Cabrera and Formentera.

 Cabrera National Park includes the Cabrera Archipelago in the Balearic Islands, Spain and is made up of 19 small islands with an area of 1,318 hectares on land, as well as a maritime area of 8,703 hectares. The Balearics are home to an astonishing system of underwater seamounts as well as one of the most important spawning grounds for Mediterranean bluefin tuna. Cabrera National Park is crucial for many migratory and sea birds, as well as important marine species. Oceana has identified a dozen ecosystems and nearly 300 species within the National Park. Long-finned pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, corals, and even rare carnivorous sponges are endemic to this area.

However, the current size of the MPA in Cabrera National Park is not sufficient. Since 2006, Oceana has conducted over 30 submersions to document the seamounts and marine life in the area, revealing many important habitats that urgently need protection, such as thick kelp forests, extraordinary coralline formations, rich maërl beds, and gorgonian gardens. The waters are important for loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, and pilot whales. Some of these species are threatened species included in Annexes II and IV of the Protocol of Specially Protected Areas of Importance for the Mediterranean of the Convention of Barcelona and Annex II of the Convention of Bern.

Protection Benefits

Protecting the area will preserve its biodiversity, providing much-needed protection for important seafloor habitats and seamounts, as well as for sea turtles, dolphins, and whales. Furthermore, the restrictions will facilitate possible use of the area to reintroduce the monk seal to the western Mediterranean, as discussed at a high level in the European Union. The Mediterranean monk seal is considered to be the world’s rarest pinniped and is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.

Cabrara Mediterranean monk seal

The Mediterranean monk seal, is listed by the IUCN as critically endangered. Photo: Hellio & Van Ingen

Tourism will benefit from the rebounding of these animals. Local fishermen will benefit from recovery of groupers and other important commercial species through protection and recovery of posidonia forests and other habitats. By enhancing the area’s productivity as a marine nursery, the expanded MPA will also yield long-term benefits for sustainable fishing outside the protected zone. Oceana’s proposed expansion will extend the marine portion of Cabrera National Park by 787 sq km, making it 9 times larger than the current surface area.

Proposed Regulations & Restrictions

To date, Oceana has been engaged primarily in advocacy and outreach at the national and local levels to build the necessary political momentum, as well as garner broad public support for the expansion project.

Key regulations that would apply throughout the entire expanded MPA are:

- No bottom trawling or industrial purse seining
- Closed-access fisheries, limited to Mallorca vessels proving historical area fishing
- Vessel-monitoring systems installed on all fishing boats

In addition, Oceana proposes three sub-regions with differing levels of permitted uses:

- Reserve area: Virtually all uses precluded
- Moderate-se area: Artisanal fishing subject to above limits, diving & anchorage allowed
- Restricted-use area: Artisanal fishing subject to above limits, diving restricted & anchorage not allowed


Accounting for only 0.8 percent of the world’s ocean area, the Mediterranean contains 18 percent of all described marine species, of which 25 to 30 percent are found no where else in the world.

Project Implementation

This campaign is managed from Oceana’s office in Spain. Silvia García, Marine Habitat Scientist at Oceana, will be in charge of developing the campaign as Campaign Manager, with the support of Ricardo Aguilar, Oceana’s Science and Campaign Director in Europe. Other Oceana staff supporting the campaign are Pilar Marin, Marine Habitat Scientist; María José Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager; and Jorge Ubero, GIS Analyst. Oceana’s Communications team in Madrid will also support the campaign via press and media work. Oceana’s campaign team has extensive experience in working on similar projects, such as the extension of the Doñana National Park, the creation of a marine corridor between Spain and France, the Seco de los Olivos Seamount project sponsored by the EU, and many other projects where their skills and expertise have combined into the most effective campaign strategies for achieving clear outcomes.


School of damselfishes. Na Picamosques, Cabrera National Park, Balearic Islands, Spain. Catamaran Oceana Ranger Mediterranean Expedition: Photo: EUO © OCEANA Juan Cuetos

About Oceana

Oceana’s mission is to protect and restore the world’s oceans. We are a science-based, campaign-driven, global non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to this mission. Oceana was established in 2001 by a group of leading foundations that shared a vision of creating a broad-based advocacy organization to address one of the planet’s most pressing problems–the destruction of the world’s vast ocean habitats. We are focused on addressing the four main factors driving the oceans to collapse–the destruction of seafloor habitat; bycatch; overfishing caused by excessive subsidies to fishing fleets worldwide; and pollution, including increased carbon dioxide emissions that lead to climate change and ocean acidification.


oceana_logo.pngOceana’s Cabrera Overview
Oceana’s Mediterranean Overview
Oceana’s Website


Cashes Ledge Permanent Protection Campaign

Seeking to protect a unique environment for marine life…


Grant Recipient: Conservation Law Foundation
Project Support: Cashes Ledge Permanent Protection Campaign
Term: 2012-2014

About Conservation Law Foundation

Since 1966, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has used the law, science, policy-making, and the business market to find pragmatic, innovative solutions to New England’s toughest environmental problems. Whether that means cleaning up Boston Harbor, protecting ocean fisheries to ensure continued supply, stopping unnecessary highway construction in scenic areas, or expanding access to public transportation, they are driven to make all of New England a better place to live, work, and play. What’s more, CLF has the toughness to hold polluters accountable, and the tenacity to see complex challenges through to their conclusion. CLF is also nimble enough to adjust course as conditions change to achieve the best outcomes. Their goal is not to preserve what used to be, but to create an even better New England — a region that’s truly thriving.

Cashes Ledge Permanent Protection Campaign

Cashes Ledge, located in the Gulf of Maine about 80 miles east of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, is a unique underwater mountain range with a virtual treasure trove of marine life living among its peaks and valleys. The steep ridge rises from basins hundreds of feet deep to a ledge that comes within 40 feet of the surface. The ledge’s peak, known as Ammen Rock, punctures the ocean current and forces water to swirl around the underwater mountains. This results in a unique environment where nutrient- and oxygen-rich water mix at a depth exposed to sunlight, resulting in ideal conditions for marine life.

Cashes Ledge is also home to the deepest and largest cold water kelp forest along the Atlantic seaboard and provides an important source of food for the vast array of ocean wildlife that lives there. The diverse habitat of Cashes Ledge, ranging from rocky outcroppings to deep mud basins, provides refuge for common New England fish such as cod and pollock and rare species like the Atlantic wolffish. This abundance draws in even more ocean wildlife like migrating schools of bluefin tuna, blue and porbeagle sharks, and passing pods of highly endangered North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales.

Cashes Ledge is important not only to marine life but also to scientists hoping to learn about the health and function of New England’s oceans – many scientists believe that Cashes Ledge represents the best remaining example of an undisturbed Gulf of Maine ecosystem. As a result, scientists have used Cashes Ledge as an underwater laboratory to which they have compared other, more degraded habitat in the Gulf of Maine.

Cashes Ledge is extremely susceptible to damage from bottom trawling gear. The kelp forests on Ammen Rock would take at least ten years to recover if stripped by a trawl. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) placed much of the area under temporary protection from bottom trawling and scallop dredging in 2002. However, a wide array of other commercial fishing gear such as bottom gillnets, midwater trawls, purse seines and lobster pots are allowed. The NEFMC may soon take action to reopen a large portion of Cashes Ledge to trawling.

The Conservation Law Foundation is seeking permanent protection for Cashes Ledge. CLF has developed a partnership with National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry and marine biologist Jon Witman of Brown University. CLF has gained the support of hundreds of scientists and biologists and is working to gain the support of commercial and recreational fishermen, conservation groups, other ocean user groups and regional officials.


Conservation Law Foundation Website


Cook Islands Marine Park

Seeking to establish a fully protected marine reserve…


Grant Recipient: Oceans 5
Project Support: Cook Islands Marine Park
Term: 2012/2013

About the Project

Through Oceans 5, the Waitt Foundation is supporting the Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) and traditional Maori leaders in their work to establish a large marine reserve in the Cook Islands.  The three-year project seeks to establish a fully protected marine reserve greater than 200,000 square kilometers.   Project activities in the first year include consultations with residents of Outer Islands, developing an appropriate legal and administrative framework, defining priority conservation objectives and implementing a communications strategy.

Local Support

In August 2012, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna announced the establishment of a 1,065,000 square kilometer multiple use marine park that will “provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests such as tourism, fishing and deep-sea mining, with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets, in the ocean, reefs and islands.”  Previously, he had created a marine park steering committee of traditional leaders, civil society and key government agencies to help design and build support for the park.

o5_cook-islands-map_0.jpgExactly how much of the 1.1 million square kilometers will be no-take and where it will be located has not yet been determined.  However, there is widespread support among steering committee members and most government officials to fully protect at least 20% of the park.  It is likely that significant portions of this area will be located around islands and seamounts.  Steering committee members also widely support co-management of marine resources among traditional leaders, civil society and government.

The Prime Minister’s proposal presently only includes the southern portion of the Cook Islands.  However, this project also will support outreach and consultation with communities in the Northern Islands.  Many Northern residents have expressed support for including their region in the planning process for the park.  The Northern Cook Islands includes significantly more commercial fishing, as well as potential seabed mineral mining interests.  As such, it may be more difficult to secure large fully protected areas in that region.


Oceans 5 Website
Te Ipukarea Society Website
Te Ipukarea Society Blog


Cuba’s Unique Marine Resources

An expedition to Jardines de la Reina the “Gardens of the Queen”…


Corals in the Gardens of the Queen may be more resilient than elsewhere due to their distance from the mainland and lack of fertilizer runoff. Elkhorn and staghorn are important reef-building corals that also provide critical shelter for lobsters, shrimp and reef fish. Yet they are dying off throughout the Caribbean...since 1980 the Florida Keys have lost 90-95% of their elkhorn. Photo: Ian Shive

Grant Recipient: Environmental Defense Fund & The Nature Conservancy
Project Support: Expedition to Jardines de la Reina National Park (Gardens of the Queen)

Funded by the Waitt Foundation, a two week scientific marine expedition jointly led by the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy was launched in April 2012 to explore the health of Cuba’s ecosystem and the conservation issues facing the country’s unique marine resources.  Aboard the Waitt research vessel, some of the world’s leading experts in ocean conservation from Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, University of California Santa Barbara Bren School, Mote Marine Laboratory, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program along with Cuban Marine Scientists from Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology & Environment, University of Havana, the Cuban Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research, Center for Marine Research, and Cuba’s National Protected Area Center collaborated in a scoping trip to Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina National Park (Gardens of the Queen) and Havana.



In 1996, the Cuban government set aside Jardines de la Reina as an 850 square mile marine reserve – the largest in the Caribbean – as part of a planned island-wide network of protected areas. Only 500 catch and release fishermen and 1,000 divers are permitted to enter the Gardens each year.  Having been granted permission by the Cuban Government to explore their diverse marine habitat, the Waitt Foundation’s mission was to support a scientific expedition off of Cuba’s southern coast to characterize important areas for expanding and strengthening Cuba’s network of marine protected areas and to gather preliminary baseline information about biodiversity, reef fish and sharks. Exploring this underwater Eden was a rare opportunity that allowed researchers to collect valuable data for analyzing possible future environmental threats to this relatively unspoiled patch of ocean.

Cuba’s natural marine environment is world class, but at a critical juncture. During five decades of isolation from mass tourism and rapid economic development, Cuba’s marine and coastal resources have thrived. Its coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves abound with beauty and biodiversity, providing shelter and sustenance to more than 200 species of valuable fish, crustaceans, mollusks and sponges. As both “the gateway” to the Gulf of Mexico and the “crown jewel” of the Caribbean, Cuba and its natural resources provide important regional benefits to the United States and Mexico as well as the rest of the insular Caribbean.

The majority of Cuba’s commercially important fish stocks, however, are in critical condition. About half may be fully exploited and 40% are overfished, with consistently declining catches. This decline in productivity represents a major environmental and economic threat for both Cuba and the United States. With Cuba just 90 miles from the Florida Keys, the health of our marine ecosystems is tightly interconnected. Cuba’s thousands of islets, keys and reefs provide important spawning grounds for lobster and reef fish that help populate waters along the southeast U.S. and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jardines de la Reina “Gardens of the Queen”

Cuba’s southern archipelagos, especially the remotely situated Jardines de la Reina is one of the most outstanding jewels of the Caribbean islands and has been declared an IUCN Category II National Park. A very popular area for diving and fly fishing, Jardines de la Reina is mostly untouched and boasts the largest and best preserved (and least studied) coral reef system of the entire insular Caribbean. Jardines de la Reina is located 60 miles off the coast of central Cuba and spans more than 837 sq miles.


Often called the “Pearl of the Antilles,” Cuba is by far the most biologically rich and diverse island in the Caribbean. It is home to crucial nesting sites for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and has a healthy fish and shark population including the endangered Nassau grouper. Resilient coral reefs, and robust populations of sharks and other finfish have led scientists to describe the region as a “window to the past,” conjuring comparisons to what the Caribbean may have looked like 50 to 100 years ago.


Cuban Fishing Boat. Even today in Cuba, many fishermen still use handlines to catch jack and snapper. A motor and fuel remain luxuries few can afford, but Cubans are renowned for their resourcefulness. Photo: Rod Griffin

Only 90 miles from Florida, Cuba is a world apart – a step back in time with the most intact coral reefs in the region. With 3,000 miles of coastline, the island has mountain rainforests and wetlands abundant with rare plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else.  Isolated lagoons and coral gardens like the famed Gardens of the Queen harbor an amazing array of shark species - Silky, Caribbean Reef, Blacktip, Lemon, Nurse and Whale Sharks - a sign of ecosystem health and resilience.

Expedition Overview

As a member of the expedition team, Rod Griffin with the Environmental Defense Fund documented the daily activities above and below the ocean’s surface.  Rod’s 10 part series includes amazing photos and his personal diary describing the unique adventure.  Please visit his blog for additional details outlining Waitt’s expedition to the Gardens of the Queen complete with background information on the park and on Cuba’s marine conservation efforts.  Journey to Cuba’s Underwater Eden by Rod Griffin.


Yellowtail goatfish and French grunts seek refuge under branches of healthy elkhorn coral. The abundant fish biomass in the Gardens is one sign of a healthy reef. Photo: Ken Marks

During the first week, expedition participants dove at sites en route to Jardines de la Reina and throughout the park to assess the health of the ecosystem.  They focused on exploring the interior portions of the Gulf of Anna Maria and proposed expansion areas of the park in the far eastern and western sides of the area.

Field Observations:

Patch reefs, lush seagrass meadows, and healthy-looking mangroves.  (Location:  Anclitas Lagoon)

Hawksbill turtles, butterfly fish, angel fish, 20-pound cubera snapper, mutton snapper, barracuda, red hind, Nassau grouper, and nurse sharks.  (Location:  Anclitas Lagoon)

Large mixed schools of snappers and grunts, suggesting a healthy ecosystem with very high fish biomass levels even where stands of Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral have been damaged by warming ocean temperatures – a problem throughout the Caribbean.  (Location:  Anclitas Lagoon)

Impressive connectivity between the mangrove, seagrass, and patch reef ecosystems which is unusual given the fragmentation that is common in the Caribbean.  (Location:  Anclitas Lagoon)

The island of Cayo Guinea appears to have extremely healthy mangroves; robust seagrasses; and an abundance of urchins. No apparent human impacts. 


Aboard the Waitt research expedition vessel, writer Rod Griffin consults with TNC’s Phil Kramer about the dive plan. Photo: Ian Shive

Week two of the expedition, researchers explored reefs, bays, and channels around the center of Jardines de la Reina.  Scientists found that the classic mosaic of mangrove, seagrass, patch reefs, fringing reef and reef slope seems highly intact with abundant fish, sharks and other marine life in most areas.

Field Observations:

Abundant lobster, conch, and fish, but live coral mainly localized to fringing reefs close to major channels.  Five reef sites surveyed. (Location:  Gulf of Ana Maria – North facing fringing reefs along Cayo Caballones)

Small isolated but lush mounding coral structures with abundant snapper and grunt schools at depths of 15-45 feet.  Turbid water and abundant growth rates suggests very high primary and secondary productivity.  Six sites surveyed.  (Location:  Deeper reef structures within the Gulf of Anna Maria)

Shallow Elkhorn Coral reef in relatively poor condition in various states of decline, mostly dead.  Adult long-spined sea urchins were abundant in crevices.  (Location:  Western boundary of the Jardines de la Reina MPA)


Queen Triggerfish. Photo: Fausto De Nevi Herrera

Massive structures of 90% dead colonies of Elkhorn Coral with very little living tissue (possible hurricane damage). Very sparse fish and little long-spined sea urchin present.  (Location:  Far Western boundary of the Jardines de la Reina MPA)

Several sites that had been surveyed in 2001 during a previous expedition showed modest increases in fishes and long-spined sea urchin.  Live coral showed minimal increases, and in some cases, had declined. Interesting reef structures occurred in deeper waters (50 feet) inside of the Gulf of Ana Maria.  Rising in some cases nearly 30 feet off a mud/sand bottom, the patch reefs contained amazing concentration of fishes as well as large number of massive corals. These appear to be drowned reefs and are currently being heavily bioeroded and also seem to receive trawling impacts associated with the white shrimp fishery that fishes the area.  A total of 13 sites were surveyed.  (Location:  Far western margins of MPA around Cayo Cinco Balas and North into the NW corner of the Gulf of Ana Maria) 


The Gardens of the Queen is known for the abundance of sharks, including Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, silky sharks and occasionally whale sharks, great hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks. Photo: Fausto De Nevi Herrera


Deep reef with abundant silky sharks and complex underwater topography; Abundant large grouper, mid-size predatory fish, and sharks (possible indicator of intact food web).  Very high abundance of sharks and large grouper.  High abundance of lionfish.  Nice diversity of coral species. An extremely healthy-looking Elkhorn Coral reef with high live coral cover, abundant sea urchins, and abundant fish - rare in the Caribbean. (Location:  Near the reef crest and slope of MPA around Cayo Cinco Balas).

Over 90% living coral. Fish densities were extremely high, and were nestled under the coral canopy of the Elkhorn branches.  Long-spined urchin was also present in very high densities, with grazing halos surrounding the coral patches. Occasional broken branches were re-growing upwards from fragmented pieces. (Location:  Eastern boundary of the Jardines de la Reina MPA)


Divers in the Gardens encounter an amazing array of sea life, from microscopic plankton and surgeonfishes to this spectacular yellow tube sponge. Photo: Fausto De Nevi Herrera


Fish and lobster noticeably smaller and less abundant outside of the MPA. A total of 14 sites were investigated (Location:  Proposed expanded boundaries from the chocolate cays around Cayos Pingues, far eastern margins of MPA around Cayo Cinco Balas and North into the NW corner of the Gulf of Ana Maria)

Numerous shallow reef structures with many exposed at low tide and exposed to strong tidal currents that drain the bay.  Seagrass dominated “mounds” within the channels, some over 15 feet high, were found to be mostly composed of relict Staghorn Coral reef rubble.  (Location:  Eastern entrance of the Gulf of Ana Maria)

Shallow mangrove rivers and patch reefs. Very prolific in seagrass densities and leaf number and length, especially for turtlegrass. Hard coral patch reefs also seemed healthy and populations of finfish were prevalent. Long-spined urchins and sponges were also abundant and seemed to utilize high flows and nutrient laden waters from the mangroves to their advantage.  (Location:  Eastern entrance of the Gulf of Ana Maria)


The lionfish, an invasive species native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea, is beautiful but destructive. They first arrived in the Gardens in 2009; now they are everywhere. Photo: Fausto De Nevi Herrera


A reef slope which contained abundant fish in most trophic levels, high abundance of lionfish, large fish body size, large sponges (possible indicator of high productivity in water column), high abundance of a variety of coral species; shallow Acropora reefs in good condition; extensive seagrass meadows; extensive mangrove islands with a high degree of channelization and young trees, indicating good health and high resilience to damage.  (Location:  Eastern entrance of the Gulf of Ana Maria – various reef habitats near the reef crest, slope, and shallows near mangrove islands)

Large numbers of Tarpon, Cubera Snapper, and sponges. Mangroves in excellent condition, although observed some large die-offs on several of the eastern islands that were reportedly caused nearly a decade ago by a pathogen or insects.  (Location:  Interior portions of Cayo Anclitas and Cayos de las Doce Leguas)

The Waitt Foundation encourages collaboration among our grantees and we would like to thank the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy for making this unprecedented expedition a reality.  The data and information gathered during the expedition will be useful for future projects in Cuba.

Cuba: Preserving the Cradle of the Caribbean with Dan Whittle, EDF’s Cuba Program Director


Environmental Defense Fund
The Nature Conservancy
Journey to Cuba’s Underwater Eden by Rod Griffin with EDF
EDF’s Work in Cuba, an Audio Slideshow with Dan Whittle


Gabon No-take Expansion

Implementing new marine conservation laws…

Female Leatherback turtle

Along the Gabon and Congo coasts, the world’s largest population of leatherback turtles nest and humpback whales breed in the waters. Gabon's mangroves and lagoons are among the most pristine in Africa, brimming with hippos, crocodiles, West African manatees, and tarpon. Photo: Brian Skerry

Grant Recipient: Wildlife Conservation Society
Project Support: Gabon No-take Expansion
Term: 2011 - 2013

For the past 25 years, WCS has worked closely with the Government of Gabon to create the country’s first national park system, designed to save the country’s magnificent tracts of intact forest and abundant wildlife. This major triumph for conservation was accomplished in 2002 with the establishment of 13 new national parks. WCS remains an active conservation and management partner throughout Gabon’s national parks’ system, the Gabon Agence National des Parcs Nationaux. One of the Gabonese national parks, Mayumba, is already entirely a marine no-take zone. Three other parks that are terrestrial in nature border the coast and have marine buffer components. WCS also works directly with the management of the coastal and marine protected area (MPA) of Concouati-Douli National Park in the Republic of Congo.

New Laws, Rigorous Limits

The Government of Gabon made history in 2002 when they placed nearly 11 percent of their land area under permanent protection. Today, led by the new President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, the commitment to conservation remains strong and there is already recognition that the existing network of marine protected areas is inadequate to preserve the country’s ocean wildlife and marine resources.

wcs-gabon-map.jpgAs much as 60 percent of all fishing occurring in Gabonese waters is illegal, unreported, and/or unregulated (IUU), and public discontent is growing. President Ondimba has acknowledged that this fishing generates no measurable income for the country, while displacing subsistence fishing and placing additional pressures on terrestrial sources of protein, such as bushmeat. WCS formally established its Congo Basin Coast Program in 2009 with the purpose of assisting Gabon and its immediate neighbors, Congo and Equatorial Guinea, with significant expansion of MPAs–including improved enforcement of existing parks and extensive development of no-take grounds, often referred to in the region as no-go zones.

Through decades of close collaboration and mutual trust, WCS has developed a unique relationship with the Gabonese Government. The Director of the ANPN, under the authority of the President of Gabon, has asked WCS to provide, as soon as possible, the scientific and technical expertise necessary to implement new marine conservation laws. These will call for rigorous limits on fishing and the creation of MPAs within a system of expanded national parks. It is under this authority that, WCS will develop an ambitious plan for the rapid expansion of marine protected areas in Gabon and neighboring countries over the next several years. The Gabonese President himself has publicly committed to the expansion of marine protected areas through the creation of a Presidential Coastal Task Force, and has privately requested a clear proposal highlighting how to create no-take reserves in existing protected areas and establish new protected areas.


Through satellite tagging and comprehensive genetic analysis of humpback whales, WCS conducted the first comprehensive impact assessment of oil industry activities on marine species and habitats. Marine scientists also discovered rare humpback dolphins at four new sites.

Approach for New No-take Zones

WCS will execute this project in two overlapping phases:

1) Complete scientific assessment for no-take expansion: Needs and threats assessments, as well as the creation of a spatially-based database to guide recommendations of size and location for an expanded network of marine reserves;

2) Legal declaration of no-take protection for each new marine protected area: Government engagement and interaction at every step of the project, from initial concept endorsement through strategy validation and leadership advocacy.

WCS will work in close partnership with ANPN to meet the President’s demand for a dramatic increase, a minimum of 2,100 square kilometers, in officially declared no-take zones. This will be accomplished through a Presidential initiative for a new and expanded system of marine protected areas–justified by a science-based identification of the most important areas for designation across Gabon’s coastal waters:

- Mayumba National Park - 900 sq kilometers of expanded no-take grounds
- Loango National Park - 700 sq kilometers of new no-take grounds
- Pongara National Park - 100 sq kilometers of new no-take grounds
- Akanda National Park - 400 sq kilometers of new no-take grounds

WCS Gabon Humpback Whale

New oil exploration efforts focus on offshore concessions, many coinciding with seasonal habitats for humpback whales and year-round habitats for other marine species. Humpback whales migrate to Gabon’s near-shore waters to breed during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. Photo: Michael Nichols

Staff Expertise

Johanna Polsenberg is the Coordinator for WCS’s Congo Basin Coast program. Before joining WCS in 2011, Johanna most recently helped organize regional recovery and restoration efforts across the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. She has nearly a decade of experience working in Washington, D.C. on environmental and energy policy as both a Senior Congressional Staffer and an advocate. Before developing a strong policy portfolio, Johanna established herself as a rigorous field scientist, working on coral reef management in the Florida Keys, Caribbean, and Indonesia, and conducting independent field studies in Australia and across the South Pacific. She earned an MBA focused on corporate strategy and sustainability from the University of Maryland, a Ph.D. on mangrove ecosystem nutrient dynamics and resiliency from Stanford University, and a B.S. in biochemistry and chemistry from the University of Vermont.

About Wildlife Conservation Society

Founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, WCS has a dual mission: education of the general public of the importance of wildlife, and implementing conservation programs in the field. WCS has played a prominent role in preserving and protecting key species, pioneering conservation studies, developing critical scientific information, and in the passage of precedent-setting legislation.

WCS is a leading conservation NGO with commitments to 74 landscapes and seascapes in Africa, Asia, Latin America, N. America, and throughout all four of the world’s oceans. Operating global conservation programs that span 60 countries, WCS scientists are noted for working with local communities, and have established an unmatched record of performance and experience in the conservation of wildlife and wild places through scientific research, training, and education. WCS works closely and collaboratively with local partners, government agencies, regional institutions, and non-governmental agencies to ensure their research results inform policy and lead to conservation impact.


WCS Website
Congo Basin Coast Seascape


Global Ocean Legacy

Protecting and preserving Earth’s most important and unspoiled marine ecosystems…


The Chagos anemonefish is found only in the Chagos Archipelago. Located in the central Indian Ocean 1,000 miles south of India, the isolated Chagos Archipelago is a chain of more than 50 islands with a remarkable diversity of 220 coral species and 750 species of fish. Photo Credit: Alasdair Harris, Blue Ventures Conservation

Grant Recipient:  Pew Invironment Group
Project Support:  Global Ocean Legacy
Term:  2010 - 2015

For over two decades the Pew Environment Group has been working to address one of the seminal challenges of our time: saving the natural environment in order to protect the rich array of life it supports. Their aim is to strengthen environmental policies and practices in ways that produce significant and measurable protection for terrestrial and marine systems worldwide.

With less than one half of one percent of the world’s oceans safe from exploitation, one of Pew’s central efforts has been the establishment of marine reserves. Global Ocean Legacy, a project of the Pew Environment Group and its partners, is a global leader in advocating for the protection and conservation of some of the Earth’s most important and unspoiled marine ecosystems. Global Ocean Legacy’s singular focus is the establishment of very large, highly protected “no-take” marine reserves. And since 2005 it has helped secure the full protection of almost one million square kilometers of the world’s most spectacular seascapes, including more than half of the highly protected no-take marine reserves in the world.


Hawksbill turtle on seaward reef of Diego Garcia, Chagos Archipelago. At least 76 species listed in the IUCN's Red List of Endangered Species are found in the waters surrounding the Chagos Islands, such as Hawksbill and green turtles, bigeye tuna, thresher and blue sharks ~ Photo: Anne and Charles Sheppard

Its work with national and local governments and locally-based conservation organizations, led to the designation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (US), and the Chagos Marine Reserve (UK) in the Indian Ocean—currently, the largest no-take marine reserve in the world.

Inspired by this success and determined to protect more of the world’s special places, Global Ocean Legacy has grown significantly over the last few years, Staffed by more than two dozen talented and dedicated conservation professionals, the project has offices around the world, including in the United States, United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Australia, Bermuda, Chile, and Easter Island.

Currently Global Ocean Legacy is working to achieve the designation of large no-take marine reserves in the Coral Sea (Australia), the Kermadec Islands (New Zealand), Easter Island (Chile), Bermuda (UK), the Pitcairn Islands (UK), and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Designations of these reserves would constitute the creation of the world’s first generation of great marine parks.  They would also provide ocean-scale ecosystem benefits and help conserve our global marine heritage.

Partners supporting Global Ocean Legacy include the Oak Foundation, the Robertson Foundation, the Sandler Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lyda Hill and the Waitt Foundation, with additional support from The Tubney Charitable Trust.

Global Ocean Legacy Work

Commercial fishing around the Chagos Archipelago ended on October 31, 2010, making it the largest no-take marine reserve in the world. An estimated 60,000 sharks, an equivalent number of rays and potentially countless other species have been caught legally as by-catch in commercial fisheries each year in the Chagos, something that will be prevented as a result of the fishing ban.

Pew Environment Group Managing Director Josh Reichert discusses President George W. Bush’s designation in January, 2009 of three areas as marine national monuments. Within the areas now protected from energy extraction and commercial fishing is the Mariana trench, the deepest spot on earth.

Pew Charitable Trusts

In more than five decades as a private foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts honed an approach to social investing that emphasizes measurable results.  Initiatives in culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy, and religion have been among the institution’s major areas of emphasis.

In order to better carry out its core mission of serving the public interest, Pew changed its legal structure and began operating as an independent public charity in 2004.  This new status expands Pew’s ability to mobilize resources and empowers the organization to capitalize on new types of ventures and collaborations in its three broad areas of focus: (1) Informing the public on key issues and trends through independent, highly credible research and polling; (2) Advancing policy solutions on important issues facing the American public; and (3) Supporting the arts, heritage, health and well-being of our diverse citizenry and civic life, with particular emphasis on Philadelphia.


pew-logo.jpgGlobal Ocean Legacy Website
Pew Environment Group Website


Juan Fernández Archipelago Marine Reserve

Supporting scientific field research to secure the designation of a marine reserve…


Alejandro Selkirk Island, Juan Fernández Archipelago ~ Photo: © OCEANA | Eduardo Sorensen

Grant Recipient: Oceana
Project Support: Creating a Marine Reserve in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago
Term: 2013 - 2014

Oceana aims to confirm and verify the optimal size of the proposed marine protected area based on the level and ecological significance of the biological resources and diversity observed in the waters surrounding the Juan Fernández Islands, both nearshore as well as on the seamounts contained in the Archipelago’s EEZ. In the end, Oceana’s plan is to ensure that artisanal fishers can continue fishing their waters for years to come.

oceana_juan-fernandez-map.jpgAbout the Juan Fernández Archipelago

The Juan Fernández archipelago consists of three volcanic islands — Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara — and is located 670 kilometers from the Chilean continent. Transportation to the continent is limited and expensive, with ship passage available monthly and flights weekly. The Juan Fernández Archipelago is comparable to the Galápagos Islands in its rugged beauty and incredible biodiversity. As in the Galápagos, factors including remoteness favor a high rate of speciation (the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise), leading to many marine and terrestrial species being endemic to the Juan Fernández islands.

Despite the importance of the sea to the local economy, marine protections are limited. Industrial fleets operate in this remote region, particularly on the biodiverse seamounts. Bottom trawling has been used intensively to catch orange roughy and alfonsino, damaging seafloor habitats and resulting in the overfishing of orange roughy, an animal with a 130-year life span and a slow reproduction rate. Chile has now prohibited all fishing of orange roughy indefinitely to allow the species to recuperate. Long-line fishing is also practiced to catch swordfish and tuna, although this has not yet been done at a large scale. Additionally, there have been reports of foreign fleets, in particular Spanish and Japanese boats, conducting industrial fishing in the area.

Strategic Advantage

Oceana has worked in Chile since 2003. With an office of seven staff based in Santiago, Oceana has had a strong track record of delivering policy change in Chile. Oceana’s team, led by Alex Muñoz, a highly respected lawyer in Chile, has set the course for reversing the Government’s historical neglect of marine. Oceana’s credibility with government officials has been built on, and is reflected by, the success in persuading executive officials (e.g., the Undersecretary of Fisheries) and legislators (e.g., the Senate Fisheries Committee) not only to accept but also to promote Oceana’s proposals on topics including the setting and enforcing of reasonable quotas, establishing habitat protections, and regulating salmon aquaculture.

The Chilean senate banned bottom trawling on all 118 of its seamounts, after years of advocacy by Oceana.  The video above was shot off of the uninhabited Alexander Selkirk Island in the remote Juan Fernandez Island chain 400 miles off of Chile. The island is part of a volcanic archipelago surrounded by seamounts, or underwater mountain ranges, that support a staggering variety of marine life.

About Oceana

Oceana’s mission is to protect and restore the world’s oceans. They are a science-based, campaign-driven, global non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to this mission. Oceana was established in 2001 by a group of leading foundations that shared a vision of creating a broad-based advocacy organization to address one of the planet’s most pressing problems--the destruction of the world’s vast ocean habitats. Oceana is focused on addressing the four main factors driving the oceans to collapse--the destruction of seafloor habitat; bycatch; overfishing caused by excessive subsidies to fishing fleets worldwide; and pollution, including increased carbon dioxide emissions that lead to climate change and ocean acidification.


oceana_logo.pngOceana’s Juan Fernandez Overview
Oceana North America Website
Oceana South America Website


Sargasso Sea Protection

Protecting a haven of biodiversity in the high seas…


Grant Recipient:  Sargasso Sea Alliance
Project Support:  MPA Establishment and Protection of the Sargasso Sea
2010 - 2012

Launched in 2010, The Sargasso Sea Alliance is a partnership led by the Bermuda Government, in collaboration with scientists, international marine conservation groups and private donors, who all share a vision of protecting the unique and vulnerable ocean ecosystem that is the Sargasso Sea. The Alliance is funded entirely by private sector donors, including Ricardo Cisneros, Erik H. Gordon, the JM Kaplan Fund, Richard Rockefeller, David Shaw and the Waitt Foundation.

Key Objectives

To build an international partnership that will secure recognition of the ecological significance of the Sargasso Sea and the threats that it faces.

To use existing regional, sectoral and international organizations to secure a range of protective measures for all or parts of the Sargasso Sea to address key threats.

To establish a management regime for the Sargasso Sea.

To use the process as an example of what can and cannot be delivered through existing institutions in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

About the Sargasso Sea

ssa-photo-a.jpgThe Sargasso Sea is the earth’s only sea without a land boundary. Without a coastline to help define its boundaries, other biological characteristics and oceanic conditions have been used over time to help define the sea’s location and extent. This extraordinary open-ocean ecosystem is bounded by currents circulating around the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre and is unique for supporting the center of distribution and abundance for a community of continuously pelagic drift algae, the Sargasso Sea provides habitats, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding grounds to a diverse assortment of flora and fauna, including endemic, endangered, and commercially important species.

Why Protect the Sargasso Sea?

The Sargasso Sea is a haven of biodiversity and there is growing recognition of the crucial role it plays in the wider North Atlantic ecosystem as habitat, foraging and spawning grounds, and as a migratory corridor. The Sargasso Sea supports a range of endemic species and plays a critical role in supporting the life cycle of a number of threatened and endangered species such as the Porbeagle shark, the American and the European eel, as well as billfish, tuna and several species of turtle, migratory birds and cetaceans. There is emerging recognition of the crucial role it plays in the wider ecosystem ranging from the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Just as the Sargasso Sea supports a number of species, it is also faced with several stressors that threaten the long-term viability and health of the ecosystem.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are not a new idea and there is growing evidence that they serve a vital role in allowing fish and corals to recover from exploitation – even providing benefits for unprotected waters outside their borders. However, the majority of existing MPAs have all been set up within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of individual countries (200 nautical miles), or on their Continental Shelves – which can extend beyond 200 nm. There is, as yet, no global legal framework for the establishment of MPAs within the nearly 50% of the planet that lies outside these zones. These “Areas beyond National Jurisdiction” (ABNJ), are the least protected in the world.


Regional agreements for conservation including the establishment of high seas MPAs already exist in some areas, such as the Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Southern Ocean, but not in the areas covered by the Sargasso Sea.

Under international law, the high seas areas beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast are open to all. The 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention envisages six basic high seas freedoms for all states: navigation; overflight; freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines; to construct artificial islands and other installations; freedom of fishing and of scientific research. Although the Convention does impose important duties (notably environmental protection) on those that exercise these freedoms, it is other sectoral treaty regimes that regulate a range of specific issues such as fishing, wildlife protection, shipping, and seabed mining.

Where is the Sargasso Sea?

The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This system of currents forms the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. All the currents deposit the marine plants and garbage they carry into this sea.

The Sargasso Sea is 700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long.  The ocean water in the Sargasso Sea is distinctive for its deep blue color and exceptional clarity, with underwater visibility of up to 200 feet.


The Sargasso Sea is a large, warm, saline lens of water, which is characterized by an abundance of floating brown seaweed (Sargassum).


Sargasso Sea Alliance Website

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