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FLAS Fellow Xavier Nelson-Rowntree presents at International Marine Protected Areas Congress

FAO OECM research group after workshop at IMPAC 5, Vancouver, BC
FAO OECM research group after workshop at IMPAC 5, Vancouver, B.C. Photo credit: Xavier Nelson-Rowntree

June 2, 2023

Originally from Toronto, Canada, I completed my undergraduate degree at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. My past experience was focused on projects in marine ecology and conservation as I worked in Southern California Fisheries management and kelp forest/ intertidal restoration. Currently, I am about to finish a Master’s degree at the UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs with a focus on international marine resources management and biodiversity conservation.

My research project involved working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). My research aims to improve the capacity of governments and the fisheries sector to conserve marine biodiversity through the use of “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs). Countries are in the steps of implementing OECM protocols as a result of the Center for Biological Diversity initiatives. These steps towards Marine Protected Area commitment measures have been deemed as commendable progress towards the sustainability goals, but they are also fraught with many vulnerabilities. The role of my capstone is to help countries meet their own sustainability goals while keeping their commitments to conserving biodiversity through the use of area-based management tools. I help provide policy guidance that assists FAO Members and regional fisheries bodies in the formulation of spatial management tools that can qualify as OECMs. As a product of the capstone, my group and I have been involved in the planning and preparation of regional workshops in 2022-23 and the development of the OECM guidance documents.

With regards to Canadian Studies, this project has a significant relationship with my FLAS fellowship. In February 2023, I was able to attend the 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress with my research group in Vancouver, BC. The conference was dedicated to global ocean conservation with a multitude of speakers and events from many high-level officials and scholars in the field of Marine Protected Areas and OECMs. My group gave a presentation on the importance and need for OECMs in the implementation of protected areas. In addition, we led a workshop research which aimed to situate the framework of OECMs into the conversation and usage of Global Biodiversity Indicators.

The IMPAC 5 was sponsored by the governments of British Colombia, Canada and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and was hosted by numerous First Nations from the province. In 2022, Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a new guidance document for the recognition of marine OECMs, as such, many keynote addresses and events directly related to the updates in marine policies that Canada is planning and implementing. I am grateful to have been  present in those rooms to not only show the key findings for my capstone and fellowship, but to also better understand the methods and ramifications that are currently at place in Canadian marine social and spatial planning. This past year the FLAS fellowship has allowed me to achieve expertise in Canadian OECM policy and Arctic Studies. I have been able to take inventory on Canadian Marine Protected Areas/ Coastal Management policies through the OECM guidance framework alongside an exploration in the ocean equity of Arctic MPA implementation and management. Both works have displayed that this field is extremely novel and rapidly evolving. Thus, even though my capstone is ending this year, my pursuit of Canadian studies does not end with it.

In addition to Canadian Studies, I was also learning and practicing French. The FLAS fellowship has opened unexpected doors for me. Over the past two quarters I have been able to assist and become a co-author to a French consultant within the FAO on his paper surrounding social indicators in global fisheries. Although the paper is written in English, the interpersonal language skills that I have achieved already through my language learning with FLAS have enabled me to become a more open and reliable point of contact within my field. I have advanced my French language skills tremendously and will continue to pursue further language learning outside of school where French will be used to share, document, and engage with contemporary issues.

I am incredibly grateful to have received a FLAS award; the benefits of which will be lasting and meaningful. I have had enumerable chances to network, obtain professional development, and present on my research. I have appreciated having the chance to meet the members of the Canadian Studies program as well as my fellow award recipients. Although my fellowship is coming to end, going forward, I was given an offer to work full time with my current supervisor at the FAO as a Fisheries Management consultant. My new role will build off the work I have already done with the agency in addition to data management practices involved in the production practical guidelines on OECMs in the fisheries sector to support FAO members.