Maui News


March 30, 2009, 9:09 AM HST
* Updated March 30, 3:28 PM
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More than 150 marine experts from more than 30 countries around the world are on Maui for the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas.  With more than 500 existing or proposed Marine Protected areas in the world, this is the first dedicated gathering of marine mammal experts and practitioners.

Image Courtesy:  The First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

Image Courtesy: The First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

Over the next five days, professionals will be sharing common challenges and solutions at the event being held at the Grand Wailea Resort. The theme of this first conference is “networks: making connections”, both between the individuals who study, manage and set policy for MPAs (Marine Protected Areas), and between the world’s MPAs especially when they share common populations, species and issues.

Just offshore, humpback whales court and sing in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which hopes to become part of a network of Marine Protected Areas across the Pacific.

Erich Hoyt from WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, one of the sponsors of the event, said: “If we truly want to save whales and dolphins, we have to think about saving their habitat, their homes in the sea. We have recently witnessed the extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin, representing the loss of an entire, ancient family of animals, if we want to ensure that we don’t suffer a similar loss in the future, we must protect the places and conditions critical to the survival of whales and dolphins and other marine life.”

The world ocean occupies three times the surface area of the land and, including its great depth, contains the vast majority of Earth’s wildlife habitats. Yet, the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society says the sea has far less protection than the land.  Compared to 12% of the land in protected areas and parks only 0.65% of the sea surface has some form of even modest protection, and only 0.08% is highly protected.


WDCS is now calling for 12 large Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and MPA Networks, to be set aside by law by 2012, for the conservation of whales and dolphins and the habitats important to their survival.


15 Pacific nations have declared their entire national (EEZ) waters as marine mammal sanctuaries.  Five of the outstanding Pacific MPAs, the largest MPAs on Earth (ranging in size from 246,624 sq km to 410,500 sq km) are each larger than the total land area of Great Britain (244,820 sq km).

The conference, which includes more than 40 symposium talks, 7 workshops and 10 training sessions, is appropriately held in the Pacific region, which over the past decade has led the world in conservation through MPAs and hosts seven of the eight largest MPAs on Earth.

Featured participants include:

  • John H. Dunnigan, NOAA Asst. Administrator for National Ocean Service
  • Donna Petrachenko, First Assistant Secretary Marine Division, Australian Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
  • Daniel J. Basta, Director, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
  • Erich Hoyt, Sr. Research Fellow, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
  • Tundi Agardy, author, Executive Director, Sound Seas
  • Giuseppe Nortabartalo di Sciara, Chair ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee
    (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area)
  • Marine Mammal and MPA experts from around the world.
  • Co-Hosts: NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary & the NOAA Fisheries: Office of International Affairs

(Posted by Wendy OSHER © 2009; Information provided by the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society;  Image Courtesy:  The First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas )

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