The President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon announced the decision to create a new marine protected area network of ten marine parks covering more than 18,000 square miles (over 46,000 square kilometres). The network – encompassing about 23 percent of Gabon’s territorial waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) – will safeguard whales, sea turtles, and other marine species inhabiting the nation’s coastal and offshore ecosystems.
As the President noted in his speech, this puts Gabon “near the 20 to 30 percent that marine biologists tell us is needed to maintain biodiversity and restore depleted areas outside parks.” This is a massive increase from the 1 percent of marine area currently protected by Gabon.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba added that the new protected area will include a 27,000 square kilometer expansion of Mayumba National Park, extending out to the limit of the nation’s EEZ. The new marine protected area network complements an existing terrestrial protected area system anchored by 13 national parks created in 2002.
This news by Gabon means it will be the first Central African Nation to protect its marine resources with the establishment of a marine protected area network. It was a great way to start the IUCN World Parks Congress, which aims to show that protected areas are vital to securing Earth’s biodiversity.