The 34th Session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO that was held in Brazil through 3 August 2010, resulted in adding 21 new sites to the World Heritage List, now totaling 911 sites. Two of the new sites are some of the world’s largest marine protected areas, the Phoenix Islands Protected Areas in Kiribati and Papahānaumokuākea in Hawai’i.
The Phoenix Islands shelters one of the largest intact coral ecosystems and about 800 species of fauna amongst which are about 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals and 44 bird species. Meanwhile, Papahānaumokuākea hosts about 7 000 marine species with abundant populations of sharks and ulua, or jackfish. Their inscription increase the marine area protected under the World Heritage Convention by more than 40%.
The purpose of the list is to determine what cultural, natural or mixed sites should be considered of interest to the international community and whose protection should become an international concern. They may be granted assistance from the Fund for the Protection of the World Heritage for training activities, technical cooperation, emergency assistance, or promotional and educational activities.
Tilman Jaeger, from the World Heritage Project, expressed his satisfaction to the recognition of “the need to conserve the last remaining near pristine seascapes from resource extraction, pollution and overfishing”.
Unfortunately, the session also led to the political deletion of the Galapagos Islands, of the List of World Heritage in Danger, in order to highlight conservation efforts undertaken by Ecuador – despite the fact that their work has not yet been completed.
Of the 911 sites included on the list, only 49 are marine areas. This serves as another reminder of the lack of representation of marine zones within international and regional conservation programs. At the European level, Oceana works to preserve the oceans’ biodiversity by drafting proposals and advocating for the creation of new Marine Protected Areas as well as monitoring the selection by Member States of Natura 2000 sites.
For more information on Oceana’s work with Marine Protected Areas, take a look here.