In 2010, the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) has set a target that 10 percent of coastal and marine areas across the world should fall under protection by 2020. Two years after the deadline, that target still hasn’t been met today. As safeguarding our oceans’ wellbeing is becoming an increasingly urgent issue, Gabon is here to provide a blueprint for how to do that quickly and effectively.
Lying along the Atlantic coast of Central Africa, Gabon stands out as one of the world’s most diligent countries when it comes to protecting the oceans. Boasting a significant number of protected marine areas, the country has become a role model for other nations to follow, according to a new paper compiled by Gabonese policymakers and scientists at the University of Exeter.
Since Gabon announced a new network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2014, the country has increased its share of protected areas from 1 percent all the way to 26 percent. The country now has a total of 20 protected water, including estuaries and Great Lakes. Essentially, these areas restrict human activity for conservation purposes, with the aim to preserve natural habitats and cultural resources.
How come Gabon is ahead of the game?
Gabon is among only a handful of countries around the world that have met global targets on land and sea. “Collective action has accelerated progress, and the country has now committed to the 30×30 pledge to protect 30 percent of its oceans by 2030,” explains Dr. Emma Stokes, Wildlife Conservation Society Regional Director for Central Africa & Gulf of Guinea. “This political will and long-term engagement was vital — creating a ‘tipping point’ towards effective change.”
Gabon’s vast network of protected areas has been strategically devised to protect essential ecosystems and key global populations of marine life, such as sea turtles. The country’s MPA extends from south to north and from its shores to 200 nautical miles offshore.
The new study encourages four key steps for countries and donors to meet future biodiversity targets:
1. Governments must build and maintain their research and implementation capacity, ensuring scientific evidence underpins policy decisions.
2. Countries should make public pledges on marine conservation targets, signaling their commitment to the international community and potential donors.
3. The conservation community should respond by helping to create or strengthen the country’s environmental agencies either directly or, if financial safeguards are weak, via international organizations.
4. Each implementation agency should lead on developing national marine conservation frameworks, working with stakeholders and donors to produce plans that are ambitious but politically feasible, combining top-down initiatives with bottom-up approaches as much as possible.
“Gabon has made significant steps to ensure the long-term persistence of its marine biodiversity and fisheries resources, and should be celebrated as a global exemplar,” says Professor Brendan Godley from the University of Exeter.
Gabon is also famous for other environmental feats
Given Gabon’s esteemed environmental record, it’s no wonder that the country is one of the world’s leading nations when it comes to ocean protection. Last year, the country became the first in Africa to be paid for preventing forest degradation and reducing carbon emissions.
Forests make up about 88 percent of its total area and are home to unique wildlife, such as 60 percent of the world’s forest elephants. Its tree coverage sequesters a total of 127 million tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 30 million cars from our roads.
Study source: Society for Conservation Biology — Fulfilling global marine commitments; lessons learned from Gabon
Want more inspiration on Conservation? Read these next: