Native Hawaiian Perspectives at International Meeting on OECMs•Olan Leimomi Fisher (Paris, France)

by Olan Leimomi Fisher and Kevin Chang

In late September 2023, KUA’s Kuaʻāina Advocate joined international marine policy specialists, scientists, and experts in Paris, France, for a meeting to discuss opportunities for best identifying, tracking, and reporting “Other area-based Effective Conservation Measures” or “OECMs” in our oceans. KUA was invited to participate based on our work in support of Indigenous People and Local Community (IPLC) initiatives involving Community-Based Marine Management, for our role as an International Union for Conservation of Nature, Indigenous People Organization (IUCN-IPO), as well as other Native Hawaiian community-based stewardship efforts we support across Hawaiʻi.

The term “OECM” first arose in 2010 as a “new global biodiversity framework” within the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (Target 11), which are global conservation goals established by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN-CBD). An “OECM” is defined generally as a geographic site (land or marine) not within a formally designated protected area, that nonetheless effectively delivers long-term biodiversity conservation results under equitable governance and management by varying stakeholders including Native peoples, local communities, governmental agencies, private organizations, and/or individuals. As such, marine OECMs are emerging as an alternative conservation approach for recognizing efforts achieving biodiversity conservation success outside of well-known Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The subtle yet important differences between MPAs and OECMs are that MPAs are designated and managed with conservation as the primary objective, whereas marine OECMs are managed areas that deliver effective biodiversity conservation, regardless of whether that outcome is the intended, primary goal for the site. For example, KUA considers Hawaʻ’i’s Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) communities as prime candidates for OECM designation once this framework gains more traction in worldwide conservation circles, and especially within the United States (US), where despite not being a signatory to the UN-CBD, OECM conversations continue to flourish as alternatives to MPAs.

This meeting in Paris was facilitated by Oregon State University’s Dr. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert and Dr. Jenna Sullivan-Stack, and co-hosted by Dr. Joachim Claudet at the National Centre for Scientific Research. It was the first of a series of engagements to convene leaders across the world from diverse perspectives and identities to consider the critical needs for recognizing and reporting different types of effective marine OECMs. The Paris meeting was intended to leverage and complement other initiatives at play, including those led by the IUCN and its World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN-WCPA), as well as the Fisheries and Aquaculture Division of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which published an OECM Handbook in 2022.

The main goal of this effort starting in Paris is to create a complementary tool for understanding the expected “effectiveness” of different candidate marine OECMs around the world. This developing new tool, and the collaboration required for its creation, are considered vital pieces for tracking progress towards Target 3, to conserve at least 30% of land, waters, and seas on Earth, as part of the larger Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), supporting achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

KUA was initially connected to this effort through our friend John Cheechoo, a fellow Inuit IPO partner through the IUCN. Others representing Indigenous voices were Viviana Figueroa and Jadder Mendoza Lewis, both from the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), of which KUA is also a member. The meeting took place in the beautiful 5th arrondissement of Paris, or the Latin Quarter, at the Maison de l’Océan, Oceanographic Institute of Paris, of the Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation. About two dozen participants gathered, with KUA’s Kuaʻāina Advocate, Olan Leimomi Fisher, expressing her gratitude for being one of only a handful of Indigenous voices in the room.

“I felt very honored to be included in these critical conversations with such distinguished individuals, and throughout the discussions I really tried to emphasize the importance of Native peoples as stewards of our own marine resources, particularly noting the various amazing examples in our KUA networks, including our CBSFA communities (Hāʻena, Miloliʻi, Kīpahulu), the various fishpond restoration efforts across the islands, as well as other community-based marine managed initiatives such as ʻTry Wait’ in Kaʻūpūlehu. Every chance I got, I shared our community examples, trying to bring the ʻhigh level’ discussions back down to Earth and remind all the experts in the room of the real-life implications they were deciding on.”

We know at KUA how essential our Native Hawaiian and local communities are to ocean conservation and management, especially those directly on the ground and in the water. In Native Hawaiian thinking, kānaka (people) are intricately tied to our ʻāina or “that which feeds us,” both on the land and in the ocean – there is no separating the kānaka from ʻāina. Our life’s purpose as kānaka is to mālama (care for) our ʻāina, now and for future generations. This understanding, that collaborating with Native people and their teachings is crucial to restoring biodiversity on our planet, is often lacking in modern day conservation talks – something that KUA hopes to continue changing.

Since this first convening, Fisher continues to be involved in related discussions on behalf of KUA to fine tune the draft OECM effectiveness tool, with the second meeting coming up in May 2024 in Santiago, Chile, focusing on more case study examples. For this meeting in Chile, Fisher will be joined by KUA E Alu Pū Coordinator, Alex Connelly, as well as Program Director for Hui Makaʻāinana o Makana, Emily Cadiz. Fisher felt at the end of these meetings in Paris, and since then with follow-up meetings, that this group of organizers and participants are very receptive to and working to incorporate our KUA manaʻo (thoughts), and KUA is thus very excited about future outcomes from this initiative. We plan to continue reporting back on the progress of the OECM framework and tool, building a Hawaiʻi bridge with our global IPLC peers, and advocating for more Native Hawaiian and local community involvement as a part of the collective IPLC voice at critical conservation convenings worldwide.



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