Biodiversity & Ecosystem Management Headlines

Vanuatu initiates action to achieve global biodiversity target on protected areas

Vanuatu is a stronghold of biodiversity in the Pacific islands region and there are many sites throughout the country that have high conservation value owing to their role as key habitats for vulnerable and endemic species. Vanuatu is part of the East Melanesian Islands biodiversity hotspot, a bioregion in Melanesia notable for its unique flora and fauna and species richness. Furthermore, the sustainable use of biodiversity is a key priority for the government of Vanuatu.

In this backdrop, a national workshop for protected area stakeholders was completed this week to help initiate measures to consolidate and improve national data and information on Vanuatu's protected areas. The workshop was co-organised and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Vanuatu Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation (DEPC).

"This is a timely initiative as it helps us as a country in our progress towards achieving the Aichi targets. Most of the conservation area information currently resides with either communities, NGOs or government agencies. This data needs to be collated and consolidated to be able to better inform us about progress and status of our protected areas," said Ms Rolenas Baereleo, Senior Conservation Officer, Vanuatu DEPC.

Participants at the workshop shared their experiences and perspectives on protected area success stories, which are largely due to strong community governance. This involved their experiences in the bottom up approach and strong community initiatives, as well as the application of local and traditional conservation knowledge. The challenges they face in the areas of data and information gaps, staffing constraints and funding limitations and enforcement issues, were raised.

IMG 2012Participants of the national workshop for protected areas stakeholders held in Vanuatu. Photo: SPREP

A live demonstration of the Pacific Islands Protected Area Portal (PIPAP), managed by SPREP, was the main highlight of the gathering and stimulated good discussions, particularly on the quality of Vanuatu's protected area data.

"The workshop was very interesting for me, particularly in my work with communities to help them identify and map their marine tabu areas (marine no-take zones). Furthermore the discussions today have helped me to realise the benefits of sharing data from my work with other ministries such as Environment and Lands," said Mr. Pita Neihapi of the Vanuatu Fisheries Department.

"The demonstration of the protected area portal and viewing of the Vanuatu protected areas data on the portal was particularly helpful. "

The PIPAP is a one-stop web-based resource for Pacific island protected area information to store, manage and share data and information on protected areas and ensures that the security and integrity of national data are properly managed for the long term use. It will continue to be updated with active engagement of SPREP member countries to ensure accurate information on national protected areas is shared.

"The discussions and exchanges ended on a positive note. There is now greater understanding of the Aichi target 11 on protected areas, Vanuatu's roadmap to implement this global target and the linkages to national and regional priorities. The lack of data repositories at the national level for protected area data was widely recognised as an issue amongst stakeholders," said Mr. Vainuupo Jungblut of SPREP.

"This was also an opportunity to witness firsthand the issues with their protected area data presented at the global level. Born from this effort is a renewed willingness and urgency to collaborate and better coordinate with one another to address these issues."

The workshop concluded with priority follow up actions including the establishment and formalisation of a national protected area technical working group for Vanuatu. This working group, once operational, would carry out additional specific tasks related to collating and consolidating protected area data and information and associated tasks, oversee implementation of Vanuatu's Aichi target 11 roadmap, maintain and improve stakeholder coordination as well as other oversight functions.

"The workshop has been very useful since conservation managers in Vanuatu do not have the capacity to map their own conservation areas. The workshop was also helpful in informing provincial councils such as ours on the current state of spatial data of conservation areas throughout Vanuatu," said Mr. Taman Onesmas, provincial government representative for Shefa Province.

The workshop held on 25 April, was made possible through funding assistance of the EU-ACP funded BIOPAMA programme through IUCN and executed by SPREP. The main objective of the BIOPAMA programme is to assist Pacific ACP countries to meet their national priorities and regional and global commitments related to protected areas through improving access to and the availability of biodiversity data, development of information systems to improve decision making, improving access to the best available science and knowledge to enhance the work of existing institutions and networks on protected areas and building capacity for protected areas management.

The Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme aims to address threats to biodiversity in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, while reducing poverty in communities in and around protected areas. It is an initiative of the ACP Group of States, financially supported by the European Union's 10th European Development Fund (EDF). It is implemented by IUCN in collaboration with regional partners such as SPREP in the Pacific region.
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