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The Large Marine Ecosystems Approach

A rallying point for countries to cooperate in achieving SDG 14

Story by IW:LEARN July 7th, 2017

The race towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 depends on its implementation and requires replication and rapid scaling up of proven strategic integrated approaches that can deliver on one or more of its targets. This was the view of panelists converging at the IW/LME:LEARN Large Marine Ecosystems Approach side event during the UN Ocean Conference in New York, 6 June 2017.

Fishing boats on Tarrafal Beach, Santiago, Cape Verde (Guinea current LME). Credit: Yves de Soye
Flock of Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus), a common sight along the West African coast (Guinea current LME) Credit: Yves de Soye
Asian Golden Mussel. Credit:

This interactive side event featured inspirational keynotes speakers and panelists including Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO; Hashali Hamukuaya, Executive Director of the Benguela Current Commission, Namibia; Paula Sierra from the Marine and Coastal Research Institute of Colombia (INVEMAR) (Caribbean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem); Abdelmalek Faraj from the Fisheries Research National Institute of Morocco (Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem); Ken Sherman, from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Gustavo Fonseca, from the Global Environment Facility.

Ken Sherman, U.S. NOAA; Gustavo Fonseca, the GEF; Vladimir Mamaev, UNDP (Credit: Josu Icaza, IOC UNESCO)
Paula Sierra, Marine and Coastal Research Institute (Credit: Josu Icaza, IOC UNESCO)

The Large Marine Ecosystem approach appeared in the discussions as a key conceptual framework for implementation and translation of scientific findings into policymaking, such as when boundaries of LMEs were defined or during the preparation of Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and Strategic Action Programme (SAP) in LME projects. The need for Conventions to rely on implementation instruments such as protocols for data exchange and data management was raised, as well as the importance to recognize specific challenges and resources for implementation at regional, national and local levels. As underlined by Abdelmalek Faraj:

The problem does not lie in finding solutions, but in how to implement them

The LME approach promotes the creation of new and/or reformed institutions, the reform and implementation of marine resource and environmental management policies and legislation, and the leveraging of public and private sector investment for LME restoration and protection, particularly through agreed Strategic Action Programmes. It is the uniqueness of this transboundary approach that well positions the LMEs, and more particularly the regional multi-stakeholder partnerships established to manage them.

The existing relationships established through project implementation, including the coordination provided by various types of regional entities to continue dialogue, enable the various LME partnerships to help countries incorporate the various SDG14 targets into existing dialogue and policy.

The side event then welcomed a facilitated and interactive dialogue featuring LME practitioners from various regions and agencies as well as the audience itself. More than 70 participants joined the discussions on a collective LME response to SDG14 targets framed with examples from their specific context. They all agreed that LMEs provide the integrating framework to help countries achieve SDG14 targets collectively at a regional scale.

Finally, the GEF reiterated its support to LME projects by announcing that it will continue its financial support although more innovative sources of financing should be sought, as public funding for these important projects will always be scarce. In particular, the challenges related to triggering the interest and engagement of the private sector as well as possible involvement of investment banks were discussed.

The side event offered the opportunity to launch the new LME:LEARN brochure dedicated to the LME approach and SDG14 as well as to present two major Environmental Development thematic issues on Ecosystem Based Management of LMEs (Volume 17, January 2016 and Volume 22, June 2017).

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Footnote: Header photo: local fish catch, Sierra Leone (Sub Regional Fisheries Commission)