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Sharing Experiences on Ocean Health & Management in the Americas

On November 8 & 9, the Ocean Health Index team, in partnership with Conservation International Ecuador and the Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur (CPPS) hosted a regional exchange, “Sharing Experiences on Ocean Health and Management in the Pacific Southeast: Tools for Regional Ocean Governance” in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This workshop brought together government partners from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico; IOC UNESCO; regional GEF project representatives; partner NGOs; and CI staff from across the region. 

The aim of the workshop was to address obstacles and solutions for effective ocean governance including issues of data management and the need to strengthen policy and planning processes for the Americas’ Pacific.

The OHI was presented as a support mechanism for coastal marine management and its ability to align with national, regional and global initiatives such as through the Sustainable Development Goals, Ramsar (Convention on Wetlands), Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the Community Involvement Training (CIT). 

OHI+ highlights

A representative of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment (SEMARNAT) shared how the OHI is used to deliver on national ocean objectives. In August 2016, Mexico publicly announced its commitment to using the OHI as the structure for their national Interdepartmental Commission for Sustainable Management Seas and Coasts. Building off that momentum, stakeholders from at least 14 active OHI countries engaged in a major event at the 2016 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Mexico in December 2016.

Dr. Mario Hurtado of Hurtado y Hurtado Asociados also presented Ecuador’s experience implementing an OHI+ independent assessment and how other countries in the region can use their experience to help them implement their own OHI+ independent assessments. The OHI has been used in Ecuador to inform the Plan Nacional del Buen Vivir (National Plan for Wellness). Ecuador is also the first country to utilize the OHI+ assessment framework at both regional and national scales. 

Dr. Mario Hurtado presents on OHI+ Ecuador in Guayaquil

Growing the OHI+ Community of practice

Regional OHI+ practitioner exchanges such as this represent an important moment in the OHI’s evolution towards being a widely applied, blue-ribbon standard for how to use big data to guide local governance and decision-making for oceans.

The number of countries using OHI+ independent assessments as a framework for marine ecosystem-based management has increased from 3 to nearly 30 in just the last three years. Now the OHI is emphasizing building the local capacity and networks needed to take such work forward.

Creating a world in which all countries use big data to inform smart decisions for ocean conservation – and supporting the existing high demand for OHI+ assessments – requires increasing data analysis capacity within governments. Annual regional OHI+ user conferences like this one will expand the OHI+ community of practice, provide hands-on training, and share lessons learned.