awards and recognition

PLatinum Blue Park Award

Marine Conservation Institute announced that Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) won the prestigious platinum-level Blue Park Award for exceptional marine wildlife conservation at the United Nations Ocean Conference. Representatives from the Blue Parks Science Council, an international council of marine conservation experts that determines which marine protected areas meet the award criteria, and President of Marine Conservation Institute, Dr. Lance Morgan, announced the award. Apo Reef Natural Park joins a growing network of 24 awarded Blue Parks around the global ocean that have met the highest science-based standards for conservation effectiveness. In response to earning the Award, Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Celia Anna M. Feria said, “This Platinum Blue Park Award is a testament to the more than two decades of hard work of different sectors for the conservation and protection of Apo Reef Natural Park. It such a great honor to be recognized by an esteemed organization for the effective management of the marine protected area. As ARNP is now being acknowledged globally, we are looking forward to expanding our networks and collaborations with different organizations to ensure a sustainable ocean for the future generation.” The award was received by the Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Celia Anna M. Feria and the Protected Area Superintendent Krystal Dayne T. Villanada in an event at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon Portugal. Protected Area Superintendent Villanada extended her gratitude to all the park rangers of Apo Reef for all their hard work for the successful management of the park. Apo Reef Natural Park, located off the coast of Occidental Mindoro, protects three small islands and the surrounding 34 km² coral atoll – the second largest contiguous coral atoll in the world. The park’s corals are truly exceptional, exhibiting high coral cover, diversity, and resilience to natural disturbances. Apo Reef Natural Park is the second largest no-take zone in the Philippines, providing a critical sanctuary to overfished and endangered species. This includes 18 species of elasmobranchs, making the park a hotspot for reef sharks and rays. In recent years, Apo Reef has become a popular diving destination, but the Park’s protective zoning safeguards critical habitats, and an inter-agency task force carefully monitors and enforces park regulations to ensure that these remarkable habitats are protected from human impacts. Through thoughtful planning and well-crafted execution, park management has laid the foundation for successful management and positive biodiversity outcomes at Apo Reef. “Congratulations to this year’s Blue Parks,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute. “These MPAs are safeguarding marine life and helping to revitalize our ocean. We hope the 2022 Blue Parks will inspire more communities and governments to commit to strong and effective protections for critical ocean ecosystems.” The Blue Park Award recognizes outstanding efforts by national governments, nonprofit organizations, MPA managers, and local communities to effectively protect marine ecosystems now and for the future. The award has been given annually since its launch in 2017. Apo Reef Natural Park is the second Blue Park in the Philippines – Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park earned a Blue Park Award in 2017. To date, Blue Parks cover nearly 2 million square kilometers of ocean, spanning 20 countries. Marine Conservation Institute’s rigorous science-based criteria and an international panel of esteemed marine scientists are key to vetting and ensuring that these MPAs provide examples of the most effective marine life conservation. “The Blue Park Award supports tangible progress towards international ocean conservation targets,” says Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist and Director of the Blue Parks Program. “While international agreements have been driving an acceleration in MPA designations, some of these designations do not have adequate protections to really make a difference. That’s why we need Blue Parks to ensure that designated MPAs become places that truly safeguard biodiversity.” The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14.5 set a target of protecting 10% of the ocean by 2020 and many countries are calling for a post-2020 target of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.