March 30, 2011

Reef Check Helps Design Tracking of the Convention on Biological Diversity



By Reef Check’s Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a formal international treaty entered into force on 29 December 1993. It has 3 main objectives: 

1. The conservation of biological diversity
2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

So far 163 countries have ratified the treaty but it has been difficult to track progress. In 2010, a series of five Strategic Goals and twenty Targets were drawn up to try to help determine how well countries are achieving biodiversity conservation. Named the “Aichi Targets” (for the town where the targets were agreed), the Strategic Goals are:

Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use 
Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity 
Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services 
Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

A number of the Targets involve issues that overlap with the mission and goals of Reef Check. Three in particular are of interest.


Under Goal B, Target 6 pertains to sustainable fisheries management — a focus of Reef Check.

“By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.”

Under Goal B, Target 10 specifically singles out coral reefs:

“By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.”

Under Goal C, Target 11 is focused on protected area networks – another priority for Reef Check:

“By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.”

In February, Reef Check was requested by Dr. Clive Wilkinson of GCRMN to attend a Workshop of 50 ecosystem specialists to design monitoring plans that could allow countries to track compliance with CBD Targets. This was an opportunity to suggest a number of monitoring programs including our own Reef Check tropical and temperate protocols to help monitor changes in reef ecosystems. What was surprising is how few ecosystems have any historical data on a global or even regional scale. Because Reef Check began in 1997, we have one of the only long term global databases available for any ecosystem, hence changes can be tracked and compared with the previous condition of reefs. Hopefully, by including Reef Check in the CBD monitoring program, this will also encourage more national governments to include Reef Check in their coral reef monitoring and management plans. For more information on CBD and Targets, please see: