Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) are “any formal or informal understanding in which one or more parties commit to delivering explicit economic incentives in exchange for one or more other parties committing to take certain actions, refrain from certain actions, or transfer certain rights and responsibilities to achieve agreed-upon ocean or coastal conservation goals” (www.mcatools.org). MCAs can contribute to maintaining ecosystem services, by protecting sites from incompatible activities, or by ensuring marine use is done in a sustainable way. MCAs can be entered into by governments, local communities, indigenous groups, private sector and NGOs, and there are increasing examples (e.g. in the Coral Triangle) of MCAs contributing to conservation efforts.

Because of the strong tenure system in Fiji, there are likely to be many examples in country of partnerships between the private sector and local communities, particularly relating to the tourism industry which contributes to positive environmental outcomes. However, there is limited public information on:

  • to what extent MCAs being used in Fiji;
  • what are the best practices being applied;
  • how effective they are; and
  • if MCAs are achieving ecological and socioeconomic outcomes.

There is also no documentation of best practices that can be shared with existing or new tourism operators in Fiji, or with local communities engaging or negotiating private sector partnerships. There is incredible value in looking at MCAs as a complementary tool to achieve biodiversity conservation, fisheries management and/or sustainable financing, especially as the Fiji government revises its National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan, and meets reporting requirements under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Over the next 6 months, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, he Wildlife Conservation Society will be leading a national study to understand the role of ‘marine conservation agreements’ in contributing to biodiversity conservation, fisheries management and/or sustainable financing in Fiji. The results of the study will be collated into a report that will be readily accessible to policy makers and conservation practitioners. National guidelines will be developed to assist existing and future MCAs in Fiji.

If you are interested in learning more about this work, please get in touch with WCS Director, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai (email: smangubhai@wcs.org)