- Today, Papua New Guinea has announced over 16,000 km2 of new Marine Protected Areas in Lovongai and Murat Local Level Government jurisdictions, New Ireland Province, more than tripling ocean protections across the country
- The process to establish the MPAs took nearly seven years, in a massive community-led process involving over 9,000 local people from more than 100 coastal communities who all helped design the new ocean protections
- Thanks to the government of Papua New Guinea, the two new MPAs are a major win for the country, local communities, and critically endangered sharks, rays, and turtles – a model of community and government partnership
© Elodie Van Lierde | WCS
PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA (November 13th, 2023) – In an incredible turn of good news for our oceans, today the government of Papua New Guinea has announced over 1.5 million hectares, more than 16,000 km3, of new Marine Protected Areas. The new MPAs more than triple ocean protections in one of the most biodiversity-rich countries in the world, marking a major leap forward for the country and for our oceans.
A project that spanned nearly seven years including extensive free, prior, and informed consent processes, the two new MPAs in Lovongai and Murat Local Level Government (LLG) jurisdictions in New Ireland Province were designed and created in a massive partnership between local communities, national government authorities, and local non-profits including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Ailan Awareness Inc, and Lolieng Sustainable Programme. More than 9,000 people from upwards of 100 different communities had a voice in the process, on everything from the boundaries of the protected areas to the governance rules for the areas, making this one of the first and most ambitious community-led Marine Protected Area wins since governments, and the global community, committed to 30x30 in 2022.
“These declarations are a result of major conservation commitments from the Government of Papua New Guinea at the 5th international Our Ocean conference in Bali in 2018, where we promised to develop 7,500 km2 of MPAs in New Ireland Province,” said Kay Kalim, Director of Sustainable Environment Programs at the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority. “With this announcement, we are very grateful to the people of Murat and Lovongai LLG and the people of New Ireland Province and its government for ensuring that we delivered on this commitment.”
In the coming years, Papua New Guinea’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) believes that there is a huge potential to join or extend these two MPAs to cover an ever wider area including “the Morgado Square” – an area to the north-west of New Ireland where some restrictions are already in place to manage tuna populations.
Papua New Guinea is one of the last places on earth where populations of critically endangered sawfishes can still be found. The two new MPAs include the country’s first-ever rules protecting sawfish and their relatives – the critically endangered rhino rays – making them also the first MPAs in the world with specific measures designed to protect the most threatened group of sharks and rays. Additionally, the Murat MPA includes full protection for marine turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins, and (in five of the six wards) all other shark and ray species – rules and details that were agreed on across dozens of communities, languages, and cultures.
“The work of [establishing the] Murat MPA was not an easy task for all of us, the people of Murat, WCS, and stakeholders,” said Nickson Namalo, the Marine Environment Management Committee Chairman for the Murat Marine Protected Area. “Today shows the great achievement of everyone’s efforts, thank you everyone!”
The community-led approach in designating Papua New Guinea’s new Marine Protected Areas meant that local voices had a chance to be heard in the process. This milestone shines a path that other countries can study and replicate, a way forward that ensures fishers and coastal communities are the ones leading protection of our coastal seas – which is how the most equitable, and most sustainable, ocean conservation progress is achieved.
“In Papua New Guinea, 97% of the land and coastal regions are in some form of customary tenure – which means that local people have rights and a say over their lands and seas,” said Tracey Boslogo, Marine Conservation Officer for WCS Papua New Guinea. “The new marine protected areas in Lovongai and Murat LLGs were established through community input and consensus, providing a yardstick for equitable marine management in Papua New Guinea and beyond.”
WCS supported this project over nearly seven years, and that work was made possible through the partnership of CEPA and the Government of Papua New Guinea, the New Ireland Provincial Government and LLGs, ward members, village courts, local organizations including Ailan Awareness Inc. and Lolieng Sustainable Programme, legal advisor Grace Dom, and all the communities of Lovongai and Murat LLGs. Funding in support of this work was provided over many years from Oceans 5, Re:wild, Blue Action Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, the Shark Conservation Fund, the Disney Conservation Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the WCS 30x30 Ocean Accelerator in partnership with The Thomas L. Kempner, Jr. Foundation, the WCS MPA Fund in partnership with the Waitt Foundation, and Harvey and Heidi Bookman.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in 50+ countries and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) - Papua New Guinea