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Delivering technical assistance on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been identified as one of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots, with a high level of endemic biodiversity both in the terrestrial and marine environments. With a coastline of 1,620 km, the country's continental shelf is broad to the north and north-west but ends more abruptly to the south and south-east, creating a wide range of marine ecosystems. The country is home to 15 species of seagrass, over 20 mangrove species (one-third of global true mangrove species), 209 hard coral species, 29 marine mammal species including resident blue whales and dugongs, 5 species of sea turtle and over 1,000 species of fish.  

The livelihoods of people in Sri Lanka are highly dependent on marine and coastal ecosystems, with fisheries and tourism being two of the country’s main livelihoods. Whilst Sri Lanka’s marine environment now faces many threats and challenges, Sri Lanka has also recognised the importance of sustainably managing and protecting it’s unique marine environments. It has committed to increase marine protection through national legislation and international commitments, such as the 30-by-30 initiative.  


The Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) is partnering with the Government of Sri Lanka to support effective management of their marine environment. The partnership is delivered by JNCC, Cefas and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), and is focused on providing demand-led technical assistance around the three key themes of OCPP: marine biodiversity, marine pollution and sustainable seafood 

The focus of JNCC’s work in Sri Lanka is two-fold:  

  1. To provide support for Sri Lanka’s MPAs and marine biodiversity, with an emphasis on ensuring Sri Lanka’s MPA network has the resource and tools required to meet the country’s conservation ambitions and biodiversity commitments. 
  2. To provide marine pollution emergency response support for Sri Lanka, with a focus on the environmental aspects of prevention, preparedness and response.  

If you have any questions about our OCPP work, please get in touch.  

Marine biodiversity and MPAs

Working in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka, the OCPP has undertaken an MPA best practice workshop and is currently developing a training toolkit based on the content of the workshop. The OCPP is also supporting the completion of Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) assessments for five of Sri Lanka’s MPAs. Alongside colleagues in Cefas and MMO, the OCPP is developing climate change educational materials for school children and aiming to support blue carbon habitat mapping. 

Marine Emergency Response Preparedness 

To enhance Sri Lanka’s preparedness for marine pollution emergency response, the OCPP has been working in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka to support training and capacity building across different aspects of emergency response. Key areas of support to date include risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, oiled wildlife response and post-spill monitoring. 

Technical assistance has been provided through these activities to strengthen existing regulatory frameworks, policies and plans for the marine environment using inclusive and sustainable marine governance and strengthening marine management, monitoring and enforcement capabilities. The outputs of this work will also help to increase scientific and technical assistance by providing access to, and training in the use of, scientific equipment, infrastructure, and data.   


Sri Lanka OCPP Work Areas

The sections below summarise some of the current and past work areas undertaken across the biodiversity theme of the OCPP in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka.  

MPA Best Practice Workshop

Photograph of the participants at the Marine Protected Area Best Practice Workshop, held in Sri Lanka in August 2023

The OCPP delivered an MPA best practice workshop in collaboration with Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) on the 1 and 2 August 2023. The workshop focused on building the MPA knowledge of DWC staff, as well as key representatives from other government ministries and non-governmental organisations.

The workshop delivered sessions on each aspect of the MPA Implementation Cycle and the importance of stakeholder engagement, drawing on international best practice and case studies from Sri Lanka and globally. The final afternoon of the workshop focused on the first steps of developing a vision and objectives for Sri Lanka’s MPA network.  

Further information on the workshop will be available in the Workshop Report and Implementation Toolkit, once finalised.  

An infographic of the Marine Protected Area implementation cycle. The cycle shows the following stages in a circle: MPA identification and designation, threats and impacts, MPA management, MPA monitoring, and MPA assessment and reporting

MPA Implementation Best Practice Toolkit

To ensure the information presented during the MPA Best Practice Workshop is available long-term and accessible to a wider audience, OCPP has committed to delivering an MPA Implementation Best Practice Toolkit. This toolkit aims to compile the content and case studies presented by OCPP team members and Sri Lankan colleagues at the workshop, along with additional case studies and links to international MPA best practices. The document will be detailed and accessible, supporting improved knowledge sharing and lessons learned.

The toolkit will include various tools that can be used or adapted to suit Sri Lanka’s needs, promoting a standardised approach to each aspect of MPA designation and management. It is intended for those actively involved in MPA designation, management, monitoring, and evaluation in Sri Lanka. By building an understanding of best practices throughout the MPA implementation process, the toolkit will encourage all parties to engage with each aspect of the MPA cycle with a common understanding of what is involved and what Sri Lanka could achieve.

Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME)

PAME assessments are tools used globally to help protected area managers to measure and understand the impact of their management actions on protected areas. They help to track progress towards the goals and objectives of the protected area, identifying priorities to improve future management and enable effective resource allocation. They also provide information on management that can be clearly communicated to a wide range of stakeholders. Further details about PAME and examples of frameworks used for assessing management effectiveness can be viewed in Hockings et al. (2006) Evaluating Effectiveness: A Framework for Assessing Management Effectiveness of Protected Areas. 

METT-4 Assessments

The OCPP is supporting the Department of Wildlife Conservation in completing METT-4 assessments for five of its MPAs, to better understand the current management effectiveness for each MPA. The five MPAs are:  

  1. Adam’s Bridge National Park 
  2. Great Basses and Little Basses Marine Sanctuary 
  3. Kalpitiya Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary 
  4. Kayankerni Marine Sanctuary 
  5. Pigeon Island National Park 

First developed in 2002, the METT assessment was one of the first PAME tools to reflect the IUCN WCPA Framework for PAME. The assessment has undergone several iterations based on global user feedback with the latest version (METT-4) released in 2020.  

For more information on the METT-4 tool visit the Protected Planet website. 

METT-4 Workshops

Photograph of participants at a workshop in Sri Lanka. The photograph shows a group of 16 people seated and standing around two circular tables.

In January 2024, with the support of Blue Resources Trust, the OCPP Biodiversity Team successfully conducted three one-day PAME workshops across Sri Lanka. The goal of the workshops was to gather opinions and input from local stakeholders impacted by the management of Kalpitiya Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary, Kayankerni Marine Sanctuary, and Pigeon Island National Park.

During the workshops, 26 questions were asked that addressed the information needed to answer the 38 questions in the METT-4 assessments. The information collected from the workshops has been incorporated, alongside published evidence and expert opinion, into the assessment, which is currently being reviewed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Once finalised, further work is planned this year to ensure the results and recommendations identified in the METT-4 assessments are shared with stakeholders to inform future work and build knowledge of the MPAs. 

Emergency Response Preparedness Workshop

At the end of November 2023, a four-day workshop will take place with the aim of providing a partnership platform to showcase science, expertise and best practice from Sri Lanka and the UK, to enhance collaboration, communication and strengthen Sri Lanka’s environmental response capabilities for marine pollution emergency incidents. The workshop brings together key country stakeholders to promote the importance of quality science, data and evidence before, during and after marine pollution emergency incidents. Key themes of the workshop will include facilitated sessions on lessons learned from previous incidents and case studies from across the world, risk assessment, oiled wildlife response, oil spill modelling, post-spill modelling and a simulated multi-stakeholder tabletop exercise. 

Oiled Wildlife Response Support

The OCPP is working with the Government of Sri Lanka and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to develop a detailed Oiled Wildlife Response (OWR) Contingency Plan which will link to the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and aid OWR preparedness and response planning in Sri Lanka. Multiple OWR training opportunities will also be delivered to relevant government staff and wider in country experts to build technical expertise and capacity. 



Ocean Country Partnership Programme

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