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The first day of the IUCN 2014 World Parks Congress marked a significant win for the oceans. 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). 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.
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. A recent underwater survey led by the Wildlife Conservation Society, National Geographic, and Gabon’s Agence Nationale de Parcs Nationaux (ANPN) uncovered a wealth of marine biodiversity (such as this eel peering out from a enclosure of sea anemones), providing valuable information for the formulation and creation of the new marine protected area network. The parks will protect more than 20 species of whales and dolphins (including humpback whales and Atlantic humpback dolphins) and four species of marine turtles (among them the world’s largest breeding leatherback turtle population and the Atlantic Ocean’s largest breeding olive ridley turtle population). Gabon’s marine protected area network will help protect pelagic fish populations such as these rainbow runners. We take great pride in the fact that WCS conservationist Mike Fay, along with National Geographic’s Enric Sala, led the research team on these underwater surveys of previously undocumented reefs, sea floors, and lagoons. For the past 25 years, WCS has supported the Government of Gabon’s initiatives to create the country’s first national park system, designed to save the country’s magnificent tracts of intact forest and abundant wildlife.


Ocean ViewsOcean Views brings new and experienced voices together to discuss the threats facing our ocean and to celebrate successes. The Aquarium of the WorldDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. The carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the oceans and slowly acidifying them. Photograph: Clownfish reared in acidified water can't recognize the chemical signals that guide them to their unusual home—the tentacles of an anemone. If anyone holding the copyright to any of the images on this website objects to their presence here please contact us and the offending images will be removed immediately.
The new marine protected area network complements an existing terrestrial protected area system anchored by 13 national parks created in 2002. 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. More than 20 species of sharks and rays occur in Gabon’s waters, many of which are threatened, including great hammerhead sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, and tiger sharks.
The marine protected area system will help protect the country’s marine wildlife, while taking significant steps to curtail unregulated and unsustainable fishing from the international fleets that exploit much of Africa’s coastal waters.


The new marine protected area system used data collected over two decades of work by WCS Gabon, Gabon’s Agence Nationale de Parcs Nationaux (ANPN) and the University of Exeter to identify priority areas for parks. More than a decade before, Fay led another team of explorers on a terrestrial survey through an intact forest corridor stretching from Congo to coastal Gabon – an astounding 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) journey. To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. Gabon’s President has assured the conservation of the globally important breeding populations of whales and turtles found here. This included a 3-week expedition mounted by WCS, ANPN, the Waitt Institute and the National Geographic Society to survey bottom habitats and collect data on the biodiversity and health of Gabon’s marine environment.
They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society.
This announcement also is guaranteeing the livelihoods of the people of the country – ensuring fisheries are sustained for future generations.



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