PR:  A consultative session was organized by IUCN Pakistan under its Mangroves for the Future (MFF) Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change. The purpose of the session was to discuss the development of Management Plan for the newly designated Marine Protected Area (MPA), Astola Island, besides mapping stakeholders’ interest, potential threats and presenting the ecological findings of a baseline study of Astola undertaken by IUCN.

The two-day consultative session was preceded by a meeting of the MFF National Coordinating Body. Mr. Khizar Hayat Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change was the chief guest at this event.

The most prominent stakeholders participating in the workshop included: Mr. Mohammad Rashid, Secretary, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department; Mr. Arshad Hussain Bugti, Secretary, Balochistan Fisheries Department; Mr. Abdul Jabbar, Chief Conservator, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department; Mr. Muhammad Ali Batur, Director, Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency; Lt. Cdr. Ajaz Mohsin, Pakistan Navy and representatives of WWF-Pakistan.

Mr. Khizar Hayat Khan appreciated the role of IUCN Pakistan and especially the MFF Programme in supporting and facilitating the declaration of Astola Island as a Marine Protected Area and its continuous support towards development of a Management Plan for the island. He also lauded the achievements and efforts of the National Coordinating Body (NCB) in this regard. The NCB has also supported various coastal studies, including an economic valuation of the coastal ecosystem.

“This was long overdue following the declaration of Astola as Pakistan’s first Marine Protected Area,” said Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan. He added: “Following the designation of Astola Island as a MPA, there is now a dire need to take steps towards its conservation and collaborative management.”

The management plan preparation process entails a participatory process which involves defining vision, key management objectives for the MPA, filling gaps in knowledge on the biological and social resources of the area, identifying threats to the site, prescribing actions for conservation of key biodiversity resources, and prescribing a co-management regime with differential responsibilities for various stakeholders.

Inspector General Forest, Syed Mahmood Nasir said that since Pakistan is party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it is committed to declaring at least 10% of its coastal and marine areas as Marine Protected Areas. He appreciated IUCN’s role in the declaration of Astola and its other areas that are being considered potential marine protected areas. He sought support of IUCN for developing a national proposal to support MPA work in Pakistan.

The sessions were facilitated by Dr. Scott Perkins of IUCN Natural Resource Group and Ms. Maeve Nightingale, a marine expert from IUCN Asia.

Mr. Cheema highlighted that “IUCN Pakistan has taken initiative for establishment a comprehensive ecological and resource use baseline of Astola Island MPA. The baseline survey has been conducted with support from experts from various relevant government and academic organisations and is intended to serve as the foundation for the development of a management plan for Astola Island MPA.”

The workshop covered important aspects of MPA management highlighting why MPAs are important, what are the benefits MPAs provide, and an update on progress against targets globally, in the Asia region and in Pakistan.

During the workshop sustainable financing options for the management and conservation of Astola Island MPA, as well as, the other coastal and marine resources of the country were assessed.