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South China Sea | Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape | Coral Triangle Gulf of California | South Mediterranean | Pacific Islands | Caribbean

Developing and developed nations, temperate to tropical ecosystems, a dazzling array of cultures and values and beliefs: the training program sprawls across 5 regions and involves 22 countries. The following section provides more details on the program in each region.


Chinese fishing vessels. (Credit: NOAA)
The South China Sea area was one of two original pilot regions for the capacity building program in 2005, and remains active today. It occurs in three primary components.


Early in 2005, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, International Program Office (IPO), and Coastal Services Center (CSC) partnered with IUCN-Vietnam, the Vietnam Ministry of Fisheries (MoFI), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development (MARD), Danida (Danish Embassy) and USAID to provide management capacity building support for the development of a marine protected area network in the South China Sea region. The 15 newly nominated sites, spanning the entire 3,000-km coastline of Vietnam, were to serve as the initial pilot sites for the capacity building program. In spring 2005, a needs assessment was conducted and a three-year program was designed.

Vietnamese fishermen hauling in their catch. (Credit: NOAA)
In December 2005, thirty-five marine protected area practitioners from Vietnam, China, and Cambodia gathered in Nha Trang, Vietnam for the first MPA Management Capacity Building pilot project. Now, in the sixth year of this program, more than 25 capacity building activities have been completed in the South China Sea region. Activities include both site-specific and network-wide trainings in areas such as: climate change, management plan development, planning for sustainable fisheries, and planning for sustainable tourism. The ONMS has also:

  • Worked with individual sites on management plan development;
  • Supported site exchanges;
  • Held topical workshops in areas such as establishing protected area management and evaluation standards;
  • Worked closely with the mentor program to provide additional skill development training and guidance; and
  • Taken a leadership role in helping to structure a formal social network of protected areas.

A patrol to help protect nesting sea turtles in Vietnam. (Credit: NOAA)
After an extensive review of the program in January 2010, NOAA made a commitment to offer additional trainings in 2010-2011, continue to provide study exchanges, provide site-specific support for the development of protected area management plans, and continue to advise on the development of a national protected area curriculum for Vietnam.


The Kingdom of Cambodia has a coastline of approximately 350 miles. The Ministry of the Environment and Department of Fisheries are in the final stages of implementing two protected areas that may potentially provide protection for a significant portion of this undeveloped coastline. These sites would complement two existing coastal mangrove protected areas. One of the most significant perceived threats to marine and coastal resources is the impending development of the coast for tourism and fishing. Capacity building provides the knowledge and skill sets necessary to make informed decisions about both now and the future.

Cambodian Ministry of the Environment and Department of Fisheries staff are current participants in the NOAA's South China Sea management capacity building program in Vietnam but identified the need for additional marine protected area capacity building within the Kingdom of Cambodia. With the support of the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Fisheries, the government of Cambodia agreed to host the MPA Management Capacity Building Program.

The Planning for Sustainable Tourism training, held in November 2008, was the first MPA Management Capacity Building Training course in Cambodia. The training was conducted in the town of Koh Kong adjacent to Koh Kong National Park and its 58,000 hectares of protected mangroves. Koh Kong was chosen as the location for the training as it served as a perfect study area and field site for the training. The local community manages the protected area. The local community is looking to attract tourism as an alternative livelihood. Having the training at this particular location, at this particular time, helped to inform the community about their options for developing a sustainable tourism program that puts biodiversity protection and community livelihood development as their two priority objectives in regards to how they are going to attract and manage tourism and its impacts in Koh Kong National Park.

The Planning for Sustainable Tourism training included 30 participants from protected areas throughout Cambodia, the majority coming from the less developed coastal areas, including several inland areas with a longer history of tourism. The participants brought with them a range of experience in regards to how they are already managing tourism in their protected areas, providing local/regional case studies and sharing lessons learned with others in the training.

Although Cambodian colleagues continue to participate in Vietnam-based training, based on the success of this program, NOAA is working to identify new partnerships to support on-going training for sites in Cambodia. Identified priorities include management plan development and addressing impacts on the coastal and marine environment from climate change.


China's Nanji Marine Protected Area. (Credit: NOAA)
The geographic area addressed by the capacity building program consists of the coastal waters surrounding the five coastal provinces of southern and southeastern China. From west to east, the provinces are: Guangxi, Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces. Their surrounding waters form the northern extension of the South China Sea, as well as the southwestern portion of the East China Sea.

A number of institutions in China are involved in marine environmental protection. While no single agency has overall legal responsibility for coordinating integrated coastal management (ICM), or for ensuring marine biodiversity conservation, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), and in particular its Third Institute of Oceanography, have often taken the lead in these areas. With funding from GEF, a partnership was developed between UNDP, USAID, Third Institute of Oceanology (Xiamen, China), NOAA's International Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the ONMS' capacity building program.

Eel fishery in China. (Credit: NOAA)
Capacity building activities, conducted in partnership with NOS International Program Office, have been concentrated around six demonstration sites within five coastal provinces. The project has three immediate objectives:

  • Strengthen conservation and sustainable use management capacities at four existing marine protected areas;
  • Develop, test and demonstrate tools, instruments and approaches for addressing the root causes of critical threats to marine biodiversity in China's South Sea coastal areas; and
  • Implement appropriate tools for conservation and sustainable use at the six sites and promote their broader adoption across China's South Sea coastal area.

In 2006, the first capacity building training took place with 27 protected area practitioners representing 4 sites participating in this one-week management effectiveness workshop. Subsequent activities have included site evaluations and site-specific capacity building activities. Chinese colleagues have continued to participate in the Vietnam capacity building program as well.


Children paddling outside of Isla Gorgona, Colombia. (Credit: NOAA)
The islands and waters along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia and Ecuador belong to one of the world's most diverse biogeographic provinces. Together, they form the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS).

Planning for the development of the ETPS predated the capacity building program when in 2000, a team involving Conservation International (CI), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) was approached by the government of Ecuador to consider innovative methods for protecting marine biodiversity and improving fisheries management, tourism, and shipping practices within the Eastern Tropical Pacific. In April 2004, the four countries confirmed their intentions by signing the San Jose Declaration. The agreement officially established the Marine Conservation Corridor between Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. In August 2005, the ONMS created a partnership with CI, supported by UNESCO, to provide management capacity building support for the ETPS sites. An initial needs assessment was conducted in September 2005 that, after consultation with protected area managers, resulted in a three-year training program in the areas of: 1) sustainable tourism; 2) sustainable fisheries; and 3) monitoring/research and education/outreach. During the interim time periods, demonstration projects will be undertaken to implement the lessons learned from the training programs.

Conservation message near a protected area in Ecuador. (Credit: NOAA)
Training commenced in November 2006 when 39 protected area practitioners from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador gathered for the first MPA Management Capacity Building pilot project for the ETPS, Planning for Sustainable Tourism. ONMS staff tailored the curriculum to the needs of the region, covering eight topical areas during the two weeks of training.

Local fishermen in Ecuador. (Credit: NOAA)
Since 2006, UNESCO, CI and the ONMS have continued to partner on capacity building training with activities held throughout the region and focusing on priority areas including: planning for sustainable fisheries, developing network-wide monitoring and education programs, and climate change adaptation. Moving into the second phase of the capacity building program, the partnership will provide support for a "virtual" learning center whereby a body of curriculum options will be offered on a rotational basis to ensure that managers and staff will be continually exposed to the latest information and approaches for addressing the most critical resource management issues in the region. The capacity building program will continue to provide programs based on priorities established by each of the four countries. In 2010-2011, training will be focused on fisheries and enforcement with protected areas in Costa Rica and Panama serving as the centerpiece of the trainings, along with the newly designated Special Management Areas (controlled fishing areas adjacent to the sites).


The Coral Triangle is one of the most recent additions to the capacity building program. Capacity building within the Coral Triangle is comprised of three focal points.

Bird's Head Seascape

Sitting firmly in the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, the Papuan Bird's Head Seascape (PBHS) is located in northwest Papua, Indonesia, and stretches from Teluk Cenderawasih in its eastern reaches to the Raja Ampat archipelago in the west and the FakFak-Kaimana coastline in the south.

The ONMS' International MPA Capacity Building Program has made a three-year commitment to work with the network of twelve protected areas in Bird's Head Seascape. With the de-centralization of the Indonesian government, this intensive capacity building program is focused on assisting the district/community-based leadership on the implementation and management of their local sites.

Representatives from NOAA and Conservation International (CI) conducted a field-based needs assessment in March 2009, which was followed by a collaborative planning workshop with field staff from CI, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). During the planning workshop, NOAA worked with the managers to design a three-year capacity building program including identification of: priority resource management issues, target audiences for training, learning objectives and capacity building outcomes. An evaluation and communications team was also assembled at this time. The workshop identified the following areas for building capacity: an MPA-101 training, marine spatial planning, management planning, climate change, sustainable fisheries, stakeholder engagement/outreach, leadership skills, and integrated coastal zone management.

In addition to the training program, eight Indonesian nationals working in the Bird's Head Seascape have been chosen to participate in a mentor program. These individuals are receiving their own training program based on the necessary skill development for them to become the national protected area trainers for Indonesia. To date they have participated in facilitation training and collaborative program development. They have applied these skills as they have assisted the NOAA trainers in the capacity building trainings on MPA-101, marine spatial planning, and management planning. The mentors have also taught the MPA-101 training to five different BHS communities, as well as taken the training to Timor Leste. The mentors also play a critical role in providing support to the capacity building participants in the implementation agreements they have made with NOAA and their NGO partners, as the focus of this program is as much on implementation in the field as learning in the classroom.

Verde Passage, Philippines

The Seas of East Asia consist of more than seven million square kilometers of sea area, bordered by 234,000 kilometers of coastline. The Sulu and Sulawesi Seas, also known as the Sulu-Celebes Sea, have been identified as a distinct large marine ecosystem (LME), ecoregion, and seascape by the NOAA, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), and Conservation International (CI), respectively.

The Verde Island Marine Biodiversity Conservation Corridor has 36 marine protected areas - 24 in Batangas and 12 in Oriental Mindoro. Most of the sites are between 1 to 10 hectares, lack appropriate technical descriptions and, until recently, had no management plans in place. In November 2006, Executive Order 578 was issued by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the establishment of a national policy on biodiversity to be implemented throughout the country, particularly the Sulu-Sulawesi marine ecosystem.

The Management Plan Development and Planning Climate Change in the Marine and Coastal Environment trainings in the Philippines were a combination of two training courses offered to marine resource managers and government officials associated with the sites in the Verde Island Passage. The two-week climate change training took place in March 2009 and was integrated with an Management Plan training to support ongoing efforts by many of the municipalities to develop management plans for existing or soon to be established sites. This training is one in a series of capacity building trainings designed to support these participants as they work towards the completion of local, joint, and regional MPA Management Plans for the Verde Passage Marine Corridor.

Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries

As part of the U.S. Government support to the Coral Triangle Initiative (USCTI) Program, USAID is providing funding for a multiple-year capacity building targeting the effective management of protected areas in Indonesia. The purpose of the program is to assist the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) in achieving the important goals and objectives in the CTI Regional Plan of Action (RPOA) and the National Plans of Action (NPOA). The primary objective of this program is to increase the coastal and marine resource management capacity of the Indonesian government and stakeholders by providing scientific information, training, technical assistance, learning exchanges and other tools.

The ONMS is currently working with partners and Indonesian officials to develop and implement a coordinated and comprehensive capacity building program to: 1) meet the needs of MMAF to effectively manage the coastal and marine resources of Indonesia through the government-to-government transfer of knowledge, skills and technology; and 2) for protected area practitioners in priority Indonesia landscapes, to effectively manage protected areas, then incrementally move to additional priority seascapes through-out the Coral Triangle.

This project provides capacity development in four strategic areas based on the priorities established by MMAF's Conservation Department:

  • Targeting capacity building for the 35 district protected areas;
  • Building capacity for the MMAF officers of the Technical Implementing Unit who have management oversight over the eight national protected areas and the Savu Sea Marine National Park;
  • Working with MMAF on the design and development of an incrementally built "MPA Certification Program"; and
  • Providing a NOAA program person to assume a leadership role in directing and developing programs, on-site delivery of programs, cross-coordination within NOAA, across NOAA-MMAF programs and connecting to CTSP programs.


With the support of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the ONMS is hosting the MPA Management Capacity Building Program in Mexico. To meet the specific needs of the Gulf of California's existing and proposed marine protected areas, the ONMS, TNC and WWF conducted a survey-based needs assessment for the 11 MPAs in the Gulf of California. At the completion of this survey process, results were consolidated and analyzed to identify cross-cutting capacity building themes across all sites in the region. The survey results were ground-truthed through the use of small workshops.

WWF, TNC and NOAA agreed on a set of capacity building priorities for a three-year program. The first training occurred in the fall 2009, focusing on management plan development for the 11 protected areas of the Gulf of California. Subsequent trainings are focused on addressing impacts from fisheries and tourism; building sustainable financing mechanisms for protected areas; and engaging stakeholders.


The MedPAN South Project is the newest training region and is conducted in partnership with WWF (Rome) and part of the Biodiversity Component of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) full-sized project "Strategic partnership for the Mediterranean sea large marine ecosystem (LME)" led by UNEP and aimed at leveraging reforms and catalyze investments that address marine and coastal biodiversity conservation priorities for the Mediterranean basin. The overall development objective of the action is to "maintain the long-term function of the Mediterranean LME through the use of an ecologically-coherent network of protected areas combined with the sustainable use of renewable marine resources." This will effectively expand the existing regional network of protected area managers to include the countries of the south and east Mediterranean. Managers, lead staff, key constituents, practitioners, and officials of relevant authorities/ administrations in the south and east Mediterranean countries of Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Montenegro, Syria, Tunisia, Palestine Authority, and Turkey are the target audience of the capacity building program.

The MedPAN South capacity building program includes the following components:

  • Mentor Program: aims to create new professional trainers in the Mediterranean. Mentors will participate in specific training courses to increase their facilitation and training skills. Mentors will serve as the liaisons between the project's staff and the protected area management bodies and relevant authorities in their country. As part of the Implementation, Evaluation, and Communication teams, they will contribute actively to the development, implementation and evaluation of the capacity building program.. Mentors are invited to attend specific training workshops on facilitation skills; interactive, participatory, and training skills; and communication skills, which will be organized back-to-back with the regional training workshops.

  • Training Program: addresses the specific needs of the countries of the project. The training program consists of 3 regional training workshops ("Mediterranean MPA Clinics"), with durations of about 8-12 days. The Clinics are developed to address the top priority themes identified through the capacity building needs assessment (conducted in February 2009) and the prioritization done by the mentors during the Planning Workshop (March 2009).

  • Implementation Program: ensures the long-term execution of the training program. During the Mediterranean MPA Clinics, every participant chooses one (or more) aspect(s) learned each day during the workshop and incorporates that aspect into their Implementation Agreement (IA). The IA provides a plan, built by the participants, that is implemented at their respective site/institution over 6-12 months following the training. For some topical training areas such as Planning for Sustainable Tourism, there may be an option for the development of a demonstration project to be implemented over the 6-12-month period following the training. In either case, the implementation component is a requirement of the capacity building program and completion is required before further engagement in the program.

This program was kicked off with management plan training for all 12 participating MedPAN south countries in October 2009 in Tunisia. In addition to the training clinics, the ONMS has assisted in the development of effective management for targeted MedPAN south countries including Croatia and Turkey by providing on-going support for moving protected areas from "paper site" status to becoming effectively managed.


ONMS is currently exploring a joint domestic/international capacity building program focused on the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa, and its regional and international island neighbors.


ONMS is also currently exploring possible short- or long-term capacity building partnerships in the Caribbean, most likely with the Bahamas and/or the Dominican Republic.

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