Recently I had the opportunity to join other ocean conservation leaders for the Blue Climate Summit in French Polynesia. The meeting brought us together for a week of focused meetings and community gatherings to advance conservation at the ocean / climate nexus. I was pleased to represent Marine Conservation Institute and share the important work we undertake with our Marine Protection Atlas, one of 20 projects that organizers at the Blue Climate Initiative featured.
The week kicked off with a meeting at the President’s Residence in Tahiti and then moved onboard the Paul Gaugin for a cruise that took us to the islands of Moorea, Taha’a and Ra’iatea. In addition to having the opportunity to meet with French Polynesians along the way we were also accompanied by the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hokulea – a traditional sailing canoe that made the trip from Hawai’i to Tahiti.
The design of the meeting allowed for project leaders to interact with participants including an active and engaged group of youth leaders as well as philanthropists, scientists, business leaders and other ocean conservationists. Over the course of the week, we iteratively refined our projects with feedback form our colleagues and sought opportunities for synergies and collaboration with other projects.
The chance to spend time on board with everyone allowed for new friends to be made and old relationships to be renewed. Our time sailing the magnificent blue of the south Pacific included several field trips to the Society Islands. The most memorable for me was the special trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Taputapuātea. This sacred site is at the center of the Polynesian Triangle (a vast area of ocean dotted by small islands that lie between Hawai’i, Rapa Nui and New Zealand). It was here that the Hokulea started its 5-year journey to all the countries of the Pacific bringing the message from the Polynesian environmental groups to the Blue Climate Summit.
A short Summit Outcomes Report captures many of the key outcomes from the Summit, and will be the basis of future steps to continue the work started on the Blue Climate Action Summit. (There is also a short Summit Highlights video.)
Thanks to the work at the Blue Climate Summit, we are ready to tackle the next steps for our Marine Protection Atlas. The Atlas team has created a framework for holding governments accountable using The MPA Guide: A Framework to Achieve Global Goals for the Ocean. The next phase will be working with a global team of scientists and conservationists to scale up efforts to track the commitments of governments and assess their efforts to plan, establish, manage and monitor MPAs. Our Blue Parks standard provides a guide star for MPA success. These initiatives build a needed bridge between the lackluster quality of existing protections and the biodiversity conservation that we need for a revitalized ocean with at least 30% protection in quality MPAs.
In addition to the work to advance our Marine Protection Atlas I had the wonderful chance to swim and dive in some of the most beautiful waters I have ever visited. The people of French Polynesia warmly welcomed the participants of the summit, and I am grateful that they shared so much with us regarding their culture and traditions. They are at the front lines of climate change and a reminder that ocean protection is climate action.