Membership within Big Ocean more than doubled between the 5th and 6th business meetings. Not only did this underscore the relevance of the network for members, as managers and partners came together on 11 November just prior to the start of the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, the tone of the day became was one of camaraderie and an increased desire to grow Big Ocean’s capacity.
Hosted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the 6th meeting marked an important milestone for the network. Not only did numbers increase, for the first time managers from all member sites were able to attend. Additionally, the two newest proposed large-scale sites (at the time)––The National Marine Sanctuary of Palau, and Te Tai Nui A Hau: The Large Scale MPA of the Marquesas––accepted invitations and sent representatives to participate.
The meeting opened with an introduction to the emerging field of large-scale MPAs and the history of Big Ocean in order to bring new members up-to-speed. Site updates by existing members followed, focused on the most significant management highlights and challenges experienced since the last business meeting. New member and guest site presentations closed the morning session and were key examples of the substantive exchange of knowledge and lessons learned that always occurs at network gatherings.
Post-lunch activities focused on priority-setting and tracking the progress of Big Ocean’s existing goals and ongoing projects. Facilitated small group and plenary sessions comprised the final work session of the day dedicated to setting Big Ocean’s “sail plan” for the next three years inclusive of prioritized objectives and goals, and suggested activities to undertake in order to accomplish them.
The day closed with a very well attended “mix & mingle” event for members and invited guests including IUCN officials, which was sponsored by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, Conservation International and the New England Aquarium.