Marine conservation project receives top honors at global biodiversity meeting

October 28, 2010

The Heller School's Marion Howard coordinated the planning, implementation, and now serves as advisor to the project that was awarded the top prize at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan. 

This is a crucial year for the CBD because it is the year the world is evaluating achievement of the 2010 Biodiversity Targets, established under the Convention. Professor Howard has worked since 1996 with CORALINA, a Colombian government agency located in the Western Caribbean San Andres Archipelago. CORALINA's work to establish the Seaflower Marine Protected Area (MPA) with local community involvement won Countdown 2010 as the project in the world to best achieve the 2010 biodiversity commitments called for by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

At the awards ceremony on October 20, Bill Jackson,  Deputy-Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said, "CORALINA's work to meet their biodiversity commitment is outstanding. Their actions will inspire future commitments to protect and invest in biodiversity."  

Proving that conservation and sustainable economic opportunities can go hand-in-hand, CORALINA created a multiple-use MPA that protects nearly 200 endangered species while providing sustainable jobs for local people. Spreading over 65,000 square kilometers, Seaflower MPA is home to over 100 coral species, 400 fish, and some 150 birds. Parts of the MPA are open to artisanal fishing, allowing local fishers to make a sustainable living. CORALINA is also working on developing other sustainable livelihoods including low-impact aquaculture, organic farming, and community-based tourism. 

The CBD brought representatives from every nation but three to Japan to discuss ways to save species worldwide. Having failed in its goal of stemming biodiversity loss by 2010, the CBD faces a growing environmental crisis. Nonetheless, on the ground efforts to conserve biodiversity in practice such as CORALINA's work, with the leadership of Professor Howard, offer hope and were highlighted in Countdown 2010.

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