Held at least once a year, coincidentally to significant international meetings, these gatherings are reserved for members and invited partners. Usually lasting one full day, the standard agenda begins with site updates in the morning and moves to reviewing current initiatives, refining products in development, and discussing the growth and needs of the network in the afternoon. Additional days are scheduled when membership desires to host a Learning Exchange or participate in a capacity building activity in conjunction with the meeting.
In order to provide hands-on, peer-based learning opportunities Big Ocean members developed the concept of a Learning Exchange––the format of which is flexible and can include guest presenters, real-time demonstrations or other participatory activities that provide immediate, concrete benefit. Big Ocean’s first Learning Exchange was held in conjunction with its second business meeting in Victoria, B.C. Canada and engaged membership on their experiences in management planning at a large-scale.
Big Ocean works to present at the same international conferences that are chosen as the backdrop for network business meetings. The Planning Team (after a review by membership) submits abstracts on behalf of Big Ocean and when there is an interest in, or a focus on, large-scale MPA management efforts are also made to collaborate with conference organizers on special events or gatherings relevant to raise awareness about management at a large-scale.
‘Site Diagnostic’ Meetings and Site Visits
Although not originally envisioned as a core component of Big Ocean activities, dedicated meetings and related site visits focused on assisting new or proposed sites has become an important service being provided to the field by the network. Beginning with an informal meeting about the Chagos Archipelago (following the 2nd Business Meeting in Canada), holding such ‘diagnostic’ discussions with sites in early development has become a standard practice. These peer-consultations have largely focused on site design, planning and implementation strategy and vary from single meetings to multi-day site visits.
Symposiums and Workshops
Although Big Ocean is beginning to provide peer-learning and support to managers of large-scale MPAs, there remains a lack of official events (workshops, conferences, symposiums, etc) that focus on this emerging genre of MPAs. As such the network seeks to take advantage of opportunities to foster greater capacity and further professionalize the field of large-scale MPA management. The following are two examples of Big Ocean’s efforts in this area:
- Marine Think Tank: In 2011, Big Ocean hosted an unprecedented gathering of managers and scientists at a 3-day Marine Think Tank held in conjunction with the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology in Auckland, New Zealand. The purpose of the workshop was to build the framework for a shared research agenda specific to large-scale MPAs, by identifying knowledge gaps, scientific needs and research priorities that are shared among Big Ocean and other large-scale sites.
- Large-Scale Research Symposium: In order to advance the understanding of issues surrounding the physical, biological and cultural connectivity of large-scale marine managed areas a symposium is being planned by member site Papahānaumokuakea that aims to review the role and function of these ecosystems by providing new details about scientific assessments and management practices. Big Ocean is supporting the planning efforts and the symposium is planned for late 2014; updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
Initiatives and Products
- Shared Research Agenda: In February 2013, Big Ocean published the world’s first-ever Shared Research Agenda for Large-Scale MPAs. Resulting from discussions at a 3-day Marine Think Tank workshop held in conjunction with the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology in Auckland, New Zealand, the primary aims of this Shared Research Agenda are to capitalize on collaborative research opportunities based on the unique scientific needs of large-scale MPAs, and to identify a set of research priorities to be jointly addressed by Big Ocean member sites.
- Guidebook on Large-Scale MPAs: Given the emerging trend in declaring large-scale MPAs around the world, Big Ocean member sites agreed to develop a set of practical guidelines on the design and management of large-scale MPAs. Since approval of the initiative by membership at the third business meeting, a draft outline has been developed and IUCNs World Commission on Protected Areas (Marine) has become a partner; the publication will be a part of its Protected Planet Series. A draft of the manuscript will be reviewed at the 2013 International Marine Protected Areas Congress 3 (IMPAC3) in Marseille, France with the final publication projected to be released at the World Parks Congress 2014 in Sydney, Australia.
- Site-to-Site Exchanges: Site exchanges have and will continue to take place between large-scale sites to share knowledge in support of a variety of activities including education, research, culture, management planning etc. These have included participation in workshops and at-sea research cruises and could take many other forms in the future.