On Thursday, November 17, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) signed a partnership agreement with its newest international partner, France’s Agence des aires marine protégées (AAMP). Since the US and France have the two largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, cooperation between the two nations on MPA work is a natural link and will yield significant marine resource protection in American and French waters around the world.
The agreement was signed by ONMS and AAMP representatives on Moorea Island at the recent Pacific Marine Managed Areas Conference. The signing was celebrated with chants in Hawaiian and Tahitian, as well as an exchange of traditional Polynesian gifts between the ONMS’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and representatives from various French Polynesian MPAs. “We have enjoyed working with NOAA sanctuaries for a year now,” said Christophe LeFebvre, AAMP’s Coordinator for European and International Affairs, “and we are confident that the experience and capacity of the sanctuary program will help our MPA Agency achieve its ambitious goals.” “AAMP has been such a pleasure to work with,” stated Elizabeth Moore, ONMS’s Chief of Staff for International Activities. “They have demonstrated tremendous knowledge, enthusiasm, and professionalism, and we are very much looking forward to working together in the coming years.”
The agreement provides for a five-year program of work between ONMS and AAMP, focusing on exchanges of experience and expertise in various realms of MPA designation and management, as well as partnering on major MPA projects. The US will support France in its organization of the Second International Marine Mammal Protected Area Conference (Guadaloupe, 2011) and the Third International Marine Protected Area Congress (Marseilles, 2013); ONMS organized the prior of each of these meetings in 2009 and have happily and confidently passed the torch to AAMP.
Separate projects will also be developed for the Pacific and Caribbean regions within the next year. Pacific projects are already being discussed and will include a series of exchanges between the Monument, Fagatele Bay NMS, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale NMS, and their partners, and their French Polynesian counterparts, focusing on traditional Polynesian culture and management methods, MPA experiences, and World Heritage cooperation. The first exchange is tentatively scheduled for summer of 2010 between Hawaii and the Marquesas.