The ongoing project “Inter-jurisdictional System of Coastal-Marine Protected Areas” (ISCMPA-Argentina) seeks to circumvent the barriers that prevent the establishment of a system of coastal–marine protected areas (ISCMPA) that envisages conservation of biodiversity as a whole for the entire coastal-marine ecosystem of Argentina. The project is executed by Fundación Patagonia Natural (FPN), implemented by UNDP, and funded by the GEF, and focuses on broadening protection and contributing to biodiversity conservation of the Argentine Coastal-Marine region with an ecosystemic approach and into a wide planning process, working with National and Provincial governments. The initiative covers around 5,000 kilometers of coast, focusing on national, provincial and municipal coastal-marine protected area. The ISCMPA Project facilitates the adoption of new quality standards by putting together management actions between the jurisdictions and taking care of the interconnected character of the ecosystem. With the government of Argentina and the country’s civil society, the project is building an inter-jurisdictional system for coordinating the management of coastal-marine protected areas (CMPAs) to improve protection of the coastal-marine ecosystem of Argentina as a whole. The project seeks to improve governance of CMPAs, facilitating agreements between governments, private sector and civil society to apply management tools, train officials and technicians, and develop alternatives to strengthen the financial sustainability of CMPAs.
The project area includes the coastal marine system made up of jurisdictional waters and coastline areas of the 5 coastal provinces of Argentina, which comprise the Large Coastal-marine Patagonian Ecosystem (LCMPE). It includes the largest part of the Argentine continental shelf, which is one of the most productive coastal-marine systems in the world. This coastal zone supports more than 80 species of seabirds, some 50 species of marine mammals, and over 400 species of fish, as well as crucial breeding grounds for many species of marine birds and mammals. These include the world's largest colony of Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), with more than half of all breeding pairs; over 50% of the 600,000 remaining pairs of Black Browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys); the largest existing colony of Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome); ,000 Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis), 30% of the global population; more than 60,000 Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonine); and approximately 100,000 South American Sea Lions (Otaria flavescens). These coastal areas are of enormous importance for global biodiversity, and they are also highly fragile areas that are under increasing threat from poorly controlled human activities and in need of effective protection.
At the year 2009, Argentina had 43 Coastal Marine Protected Areas (CMPAs) in the project area, with similar coverage of land (800,000 ha) and marine (823,000 ha) areas. Most of these CMPAs were created to protect breeding and feeding sites of marine birds and mammals as well as migratory birds, but the protection is unevenly distributed between the 5 different marine bioregions and less than % of the sea is protected. Nor do these CMPAs cover the full range of terrestrial coastal and coastal-marine interface habitats. Uneven representation of habitats and deficient operating procedures for the conservation of marine habitats in the LCMPE constitute barriers that prevent the consolidation of an effectively managed and sustainable system of CMPAs in Argentina. In addition to the CMPAs, the Argentine National Coast Guard has established 13 “Special Protection Areas” (SPAs) along the Argentine coast, prohibiting the discharge of oil and all kinds of waste in these areas. The SPAs are designated according to ecological, socioeconomic and cultural criteria that reflect an awareness of the potential damages that could be caused by the vessels in the area. These 13 SPAs overlaps with CMAPs, in some cases partially and in others fully, and help justify the proposed designation of marine protected areas.
The economy of the coastal areas of the four Patagonian provinces is based on oil and gas extraction, and the fishing industry. This region supports one of the most profitable commercial fisheries in the world; the number of industrial fishing vessels increased by 80% between 1989 and 1998. Tourism is a growing sector, and is based in large part on the beaches, natural beauty, and wildlife of the area. Current coastal development threatens the sustainable use of coastal ecosystems, and the increased pressure from urban and industry growth, hydrocarbon extractions, fisheries, and tourism has overwhelmed pre-existing protected areas and management approaches.
The project has three main Outcomes: ) facilitate the creation of an Inter-jurisdictional System of Coastal Marine Protected Areas (ISCMPA) that will bring together national and provincial authorities of Argentina to coordinate the management of their coastal-marine protected areas (CMPAs), and establish agreements and commitments with the productive sectors to consolidate and sustain them; 2) increase the number and size of CMPAs pilot cases, based on the ecological role these areas play in providing immediate benefits to biodiversity, and adopt proven operational and financial approaches directly at these sites; and ) develop a coordinated strategy with governments and private sectors to increase funding to enable the ISCMPA to sustainably and effectively manage Argentina’s CMPAs. The project has helped establish legal, financial, and administrative mechanisms for common spaces in the ISCMPA, taking into account the individual needs of each area regardless of political boundaries. These mechanisms have been designed using a “prizes and promotion” strategy for the protected areas, based on a scoring system that evaluates the management using different indicators and on the basis of precise and pertinent information.
- The creation of a project Steering Committee (with representatives of the national Government and the five coastal provinces, UNDP Argentina and FPN) was a valuable asset because it guarantees the necessary government commitment and strong project backing. The support of the committee for the design of the Inter-jurisdictional System of Coastal Marine Protected areas is key to its sustainability and provides continuity to project activities.
- Having FPN as the executing agency proved extremely effective because NGO implementation provided continuity between governmental periods, as when the 2011 elections produced significant changes in governments in the target area.
- UNDP helped communicate the initiative to all government participants, and contributed to building consensus on an inter-jurisdictional agreement for the management of coastal marine protected areas (CMPAs).
- Project partners may prioritize one aspect of the project over the rest. Ensuring communication between all partners as well as with governmental organizations can help retain project integrity.
- The institutional analysis carried out during the preparation stage of a project should be reviewed during the implementation. These previous analysis get overwhelmed due to Argentina’s political-institutional changes.
- The role of the inter-jurisdiction is essential to the achievement of results in a country that is advancing to a federal conformation. The new inter-jurisdictional cooperation mechanisms should be analyzed and refined.
- Civil society and local communities’ involvement are key to achieving project sustainability. In places where civil society is weak or fragmented different actions should be considered for creating and promoting participation.
- The acceptance and internalization of project tools by national, provincial, and municipal authorities demonstrate support for the project, and indicate project sustainability.
- Project activities should invest in children and teenagers as stewards of long-term environmental programmes, though the impact is hard to evaluate during the life of the project.
- An inter-jurisdictional system with multiple municipal stakeholders must be composed in different levels, with established lines of communication between stakeholders, and should offer technical assistance to address issues. This system should correlate with national decision-making, as when COFEMA (Environmental Federal Council) and SiFAP (Federal Protected Areas System) used provincial representatives who were deeply engaged to the Project as links and insisted on an apolitical inter-jurisdiction as regards biodiversity matters.
- Scientific and technological resources should be employed strategically, starting with baseline assessments, to produce information useful for municipalities and provinces that may not have the technical capacity to collect this data.
- The project provided technical support that led to the creation of several coastal marine protected areas and parks in Argentina. The largest of these new parks is the “Namuncura-Burdwood Bank” Marine Protected Area established in July 2013, the first oceanic park in Argentina. The project worked with NGOs and the National Congress to establish this new protected area in the Burdwood Bank off the eastern tip of Tierra del Fuego, a park that covers an area of 1.4 million hectares that increases protection of the Argentine sea to more than 4%.
- At the request of the Government of the province of Chubut, the project worked together with the Federal Environmental Secretariat and the provincial authorities for the creation of a new biosphere reserve (UNESCO-MAB), that encompasses the entire Peninsula Valdés and surrounding areas. In June 2014, UNESCO approved the creation of the Peninsula Valdés Biosphere Reserve. The designation increases to 15% the surface contained within UNESCO-MAB designations in Argentina's protected area system. The new biosphere reserve was designated by the International Coordinating Council of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), at its 26th session in Jönkoping (Sweden). Thirteen new sites were added in this opportunity to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (which now number 631 sites in 119 countries, including 14 transboundary sites).
- The involvement of new stakeholders to work in coastal marine protection is promising, and this will hopefully be expanded during the second half of the Project. Public policy incidence channels have been opened and strengthened, and knowledge and management capacity of the CMPAs have been improved for public officers of all the jurisdictions. An unexpected effect of the project was the submission of a National Law (approval at 2013 by the Argentina Congress) to establish an Ocean Protected Area: “Namuncurá –Burdwood Bank,” which would cover around .4 million ha and would increase Argentina’s rate of protected oceans to more that 4%.