KARACHI: Astola Island, the first and the newly designated Marine Protected Area (MPA) of the country is in urgent need of prescribed actions for the conservation of its key biodiversity resources.
Experts addressing a consultative session on Astola management plan held here under the aegis of IUCN Pakistan under its Mangroves for the Future (MFF) Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change emphasized the need for steps towards its conservation and collaborative management.
The purpose of the session was to discuss the development of Management Plan for the Astola Island, besides mapping stakeholders’ interest, potential threats and presenting the ecological findings of a baseline study of Astola undertaken by IUCN.
The management plan preparation process was registered to entail a participatory process including a defined vision, key management objectives for the MPA, filling gaps in knowledge on the biological and social resources of the area, identification of threats to the site and prescribing a co-management regime with differential responsibilities for various stakeholders.
Khizar Hayat Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change on the occasion 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 the 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 Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan.
He mentioned that IUCN Pakistan initiated a comprehensive ecological and resource use baseline of Astola Island MPA with the support from experts from various relevant government and academic organisations.
This baseline survey, he said is intended to serve as the foundation for the development of a management plan for Astola Island MPA.
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 percent 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.
Nasir in this context also sought the support of IUCN for developing a national proposal to support MPA work across the country.
The sessions facilitated by Dr Scott Perkins of IUCN Natural Resource Group and Ms Maeve Nightingale, a marine expert from IUCN Asia were also participated by Mohammad Rashid, Secretary, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department; Arshad Hussain Bugti, Secretary, Balochistan Fisheries Department; Abdul Jabbar, Chief Conservator, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department; Muhammad Ali Batur, Director, Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency; Lt. Cdr. Ajaz Mohsin, Pakistan Navy and representatives of WWF-Pakistan.
On the occasion important aspects of MPA management were covered 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.
Participants extensively discussed and assessed sustainable financing options for the management and conservation of Astola Island MPA, as well as, the other coastal and marine resources of the country.