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to the

Lead Authors:
Scott Atkinson
Niquole Esters
Ginny Farmer
Keith Lawrence
Frazer McGilvray

Context for
Large-scale Marine
Over the last several decades, efforts to enhance marine management
have grown steadily and become more robust, with a growing focus
on managing large areas. National, regional, and international laws
and agreements have been created to implement the principles in
the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),
and to promote marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable
development. These efforts have resulted in a variety of management
strategies and governance regimes at large scales. It is widely
recognized that any strategy to achieve conservation and sustainability
on a grand scale must incorporate planning and action at a
landscape scale (or marine equivalent), exemplified by ecosystembased conservation. Working at the Seascape scale adds value
by facilitating repetition of successful projects across a wider area;
allowing economies of scale; tackling large-scale threats such as wideranging fisheries; enabling more efficient designs of MPA networks;
taking account of connectivity issues and migratory species; filling the
missing link between site-based projects and national/international
As threats to marine environments continue to grow, it is critical to
expand the scope and effectiveness of marine management efforts.
The Seascape approach provides a comprehensive governance
framework to unite and motivate practitioners across biologically
and socially important areas. Together, these practitioners can more
effectively link their conservation efforts under a collective strategy to
enhance overall conservation success.

Fisherman photographed over bait fish in Raja Ampat, Birds Head Seascape.

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The Seascape
The Seascape approach aims to build coalitions among governments,
corporations, and civil society to improve ocean governance. It
highlights the importance of achieving effective governance across
sectors and at all levels, from local to regional.
Seascapes typically include government-authorized protected areas
that address special management needs, and provide an opportunity
for government agencies to coordinate their efforts voluntarily to secure
more effective regional management.
The Seascapes approach promotes comprehensive marine
management at multiple levels of governance by focusing on the
achievement of nine essential elements.

Scientists examining a green turtle in Raja Ampat, Birds Head Seascape.

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A dwarf hawkfish photographed near Lubang, Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape.


The Seascape Process

The 9 Essential Elements

of a Functional Seascape
Enabling conditions

Seascapes generate an enabling framework of laws, conventions, regulations,

and policies that facilitate marine conservation at local, national, and regional

Seascapes advance large-scale management of marine ecosystems and species through the use of multidisciplinary scientific information to inform effective
planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

Seascapes build adequate institutional frameworks and capacity, including

personnel, infrastructure, and equipment, to make marine governance
structures (governmental, commercial, and civil) work effectively and efficiently.



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Changes in behavior
Seascapes promote convergence between conservation and development by
linking the viability and profitability of major economic activities with sustainable
management of the ecosystem.
Seascapes increase the social and political viability of marine conservation as
an integral part of sustainable development, and they build broad support at all
scales, from stakeholders in local marine managed areas to national leaders.

Ecological outcomes
Seascapes maintain or restore critical habitats and ecosystems so that ecological processes and ecosystem services are sustained.
Seascapes reverse declining population trends for threatened marine species.

Human well-being benefits

Seascapes improve the social, economic, and cultural well-being of human
communities dependent on marine and coastal resources and ecosystems.

Long-term sustainability
Seascapes strive to be financially sustainable, with funding portfolios that are
stable, diverse, and large enough to implement all priority marine conservation

Existing seascapes
Seascape initiatives underway around the globe represent a broad array
of cultural and environmental contexts, and cover a wide range of sizes.
Labeled here are locations where the Seascape approach is being applied

A = Abrolhos Seascape
B = Birds Head Seascape

C = Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape

D = Glovers Reef Seascape

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by Conservation International and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Both

organizations, along with their many partners, are actively using a Seascape
framework to guide their conservation work.

E = Karimunjawa Seascape
F = Patagonian and Southwest
Atlantic Seascape

G = Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape
H = Vatu-i-Ra Seascape

The Seascape Process

1. Identify and Select Seascapes for Investment
Priority Seascapes should be identified and selected scientifically as
well as strategically. Seascapes are designated not solely on biological
criteria, but should be selected based on a number of factors:

Social and political support for Seascapes management

Ecological criteria
Socioeconomic criteria
Governance criteria
Opportunity criteria

Existing information should be compiled, and both social and natural

science studies conducted as feasible to fill any information gaps. It is
important to assess candidly the likelihood that implementing bodies
and stakeholders will be able to achieve success in the nine essential
elements, and the length of time required. Often this can mean a time
scale of ten years or more.
Although Seascapes should be large enough to accommodate critical
ecosystem processes and multiple levels of governance, size is not a
major determining factor in Seascape delineation.
A series of steps are recommended, starting with forming a committee and collating information, through to prioritizing and selecting the
candidate Seascapes.

2. Develop a Seascape Strategy

Once a Seascape has been selected for investment, it is helpful to
develop a strategy to guide that investment. A Seascape strategy
(sometimes referred to as an action plan or a strategic workplan)
clearly identifies a set of objectives or results that stakeholders want to

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achieve to improve management of the Seascape, as well as a detailed

set of activities and the necessary resources to achieve them.
Targets may include reducing threats, improving the status of natural resources, advancing the socioeconomic status of communities, building
resilience to (climate) change, and strengthening the enabling environment.
Are we ready to develop a Seascape strategy?
Developing a Seascape strategy requires a significant investment of
time and funding. Before starting, the following questions need to be
answered to prepare to undertake Seascape strategy development.

Why prepare a Seascape strategy at this time?

Will having a strategy help to advance management efforts?
Are major stakeholders supportive of creating a Seascape strategy?
Are they committed to engaging in the Seascape for a significant
period of time?
Who has the authority to undertake strategy development?
Who will help lead the process?
Is there sufficient time and financial resources available for the

Once ready to develop a full Seascape strategy, note that it should at a

minimum answer these key questions:

What is the current status of the Seascape in relation to the nine

essential elements?
What do we want to achieve through Seascape management?
How will it be achieved?
Who will achieve it, by when, and with what funding and support?
How will we know it has been achieved?


For the strategy to be fully effective, it should identify both the current
status of each of the nine essential elements and the objectives and
activities that will be pursued to achieve success under each at multiple
levels of governance.
The recommended steps are described in detail in the The Seascapes
Guidebook: How to Select, Develop and Implement Seascapes, with
several worksheets for each to help with the steps.

3. Implement and monitor

The implementation stage of the Seascape process encourages work
in all nine of the essential elements. The relative balance between these
will vary from place to place depending on prevailing threats and ongoing
activities. The key is to ensure that effective progress is being made over
time toward achieving key objectives that collectively support the nine
essential elements.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy and the progress toward
implementation, it is necessary to measure progress against the agreed
set of indicators; develop a monitoring plan; hold periodic external evaluations; and adaptively manage the project in response to findings. Over
time, these steps will help assist in improving the effectiveness of the
strategy by incorporating lessons learned.
Seascapes around the world have achieved great success by developing
effective strategies and working hard to achieve them. It is hoped these
successes will inspire and motivate as the process towards creating and
implementing the Seascape strategy moves along.

Scientist studying a coral reef during a marine expedition to Buli Bay, Indonesia.
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Additional resources
The brochure and guidebook were developed primarily through a
workshop that included the participation of Conservation International,
the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature
Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wide Fund
for Nature.
The Guide is designed to be used by marine management practitioners
as they work to develop Seascape management programs. The
recommended steps can be adapted as necessary to fit varying
circumstances and organizational mandates.

For more information contact:

Niquole Esters
Regional Coordinator, Coral Triangle Initiative Program
Global Marine Division
Keith Lawrence
Director, Seascapes Program
Global Marine Division
Frazer McGilvray
Senior Director, Coral Reefs, Fisheries & Food Security
Global Marine Division

Local fishermen with their days catch in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape.

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An Introduction
to the Seascapes
This brochure summarizes approaches to identify and select
Seascapes for investment and to develop conservation strategies
for selected Seascapes.
These processes are discussed in greater detail in the complete
The Seascapes Guidebook: How to Select, Develop and
Implement Seascapes, available in printed form from Conservation
International and online at:

Conservation International
2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22202 USA