Why Big? Why Now?
For 25 years, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, served as the world’s single truly large-scale marine conservation site, dwarfing the next largest sites in orders of magnitude that made comparisons difficult at best. Between 2000 and 2010, four more large-scale MPAs were established: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and World Heritage Site, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, and the largest to date at 210,425 mi2, the Chagos Marine Protected Area.
The past two decades have seen not only an increase in the call for marine protection, but also for such protections to happen at increasingly larger levels of scale and area, including on the high seas. Calls and challenges for large-scale marine protection abound, and are reflected within existing scientific studies and consensus statements, international agreements and declarations, as well as conservation literature, including best professional practices handbooks. The most recent and relevant of such calls arose out of the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Nagoya, Japan, during October 2010. Out of this meeting, the Parties agreed to the need to protect at least 10% of all of the world’s marine and coastal eco-regions by 2020, noting the critical role that large-scale MPAs will play in order to achieve this target.
During early 2010 the Government of Chile proposed setting aside a large area within its extensive Eastern Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone as a large-scale MPA. In October of that year the Government of Chile declared a portion of this proposed area as the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park (formerly referred to as the Sala y Gómez Marine Park).
In addition, there are other large-scale MPAs being proposed through national, regional, and international initiatives that would significantly contribute toward the total global marine area actively managed for marine protection.
The time has come for large scale MPAs. The time has also come to ensure we learn from our collective experiences and share this learning widely so new sites that are proposed and established can benefit from the increased professionalization of the field and best practices that are being developed, from their inception. Thus, the creation of Big Ocean: A Network of the World’s Large Scale Marine Protected Areas.