After 18 years inland, members of the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) community met in large numbers in Cape Town, South Africa (29 November to 1 December 2017) to exchange views and ideas on specific issues that could result in better LME governance. The event that preceded it, the Regional Ocean Governance Partnership Building Meeting, set the scene for the agenda which followed during the LME19.
While the Partnership Meeting took a wider perspective and discussed how various international organisations could join their efforts in regional ocean governance, the LME19 meeting was more concentrated on ways and means to achieve this using the LME approach. In that respect, the LME19 somehow differed from the previous annual meetings because its focus was on capacity building and, more specifically, on using the resources that were generated by the project “Strengthening Global Governance of Large Marine Ecosystems and Their Coasts through Enhanced Sharing and Application of LME/ICM/MPA Knowledge and Information Tools” (LME:LEARN). The LME:LEARN project is entering the last full year of its implementation (ending in March 2019) and the LME19 was an excellent opportunity to review its progress and see how its outcomes could be put to the best use of the LME community.
Participants reviewed the considerable progress in implementation of most of the LME:LEARN activities, and in particular the seven toolkits: governance; LME strategic approach; LME project approach; environmental economics; stakeholders participation in LMEs; LME scorecard; and marine spatial planning. Discussion on the toolkits had proven to be a real interactive exercise as the participants had an opportunity to comment on the drafts of the toolkits and give proposals to frame them in the way that will allow their best use in the future. There was a common understanding that the set of toolkits should be considered as one ‘”product”, meaning that they should be interlinked. It was emphasized that the toolkits should not be considered as an end product, they will be taken over by the practitioners in the field. The Regional Networks, established by the LME:LEARN project, will play a critical role in making this happen. These networks will also be instrumental in “recruiting” the participants of the LME Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) that is being developed, the outline of which was presented at the meeting.
The participants also critiqued two important outreach products: LME Hub, and LME/Marine Online Database and Marine Portal. The LME Hub is oriented towards the general public and it will present the summarized information on LMEs, coupled with videos and other material, in a very popular and easy-to-use format. The Marine Online Database is more “serious” product and is aimed at LME practitioners. It contains all the available information on all the LME, ICM, MSP, MPA and climate change adaptation projects financed by GEF and other sources. This will be an invaluable asset for all those that will have a stake in LME governance.
Finally, two targeted short training sessions were organized: one on integration of economic valuation of “wet” ecosystem services into TDA-SAP process; and the second on spatial data management. There was a lot of excitement among the participants in realising that these, otherwise complex, subjects could be explained in simple and understandable ways.
The LME19 was labelled a success, despite delivering a format that was different from the traditional community gatherings. The participants embraced the new approach because it brought them closer to the practical tools that they can use in their daily work.