Marine resources still being degraded and exploited at an unsustainable rate
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Listening to official government sources about the state of the world’s oceans is one thing, with a steady stream of “good” news often highlighting new marine reserves and the recovery of fisheries.
But on the whole, world leaders have made only “pitiful” progress in their promises to protect global oceans from overfishing and other threats, according to the Zoological Society of London, which is hardly a hotbed of radical environmentalism. In fact, there has been little progress in meeting critical conservation goals in the past 20 years, the scientists wrote in a study published June 15 in Science.
The researchers compared goals established at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. At the meeting, 192 countries agreed on targets for protecting vulnerable species and marine habitats and managing fishing sustainably in national waters.
Ten years on, none of these targets have been met, and in some cases the situation is worse than before, said the researchers with the zoological society, hardly known as a hotbed of radical environmentalism.
“Our analysis shows that almost every commitment made by governments to protect the oceans has not been achieved,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London. “If these international processes are to be taken seriously, governments must be held accountable and any future commitments must come with clear plans for implementation and a process to evaluate success or failure.”
The article in Science outlines how global depletion of fish stocks is threatening the integrity of ocean ecosystems. Risks posed by climate change, disease, and other pressures will have a huge impact on ecosystems already destabilized by overfishing, pollution, and other damaging activities.
Collapses such as the Newfoundland cod fishery – once the largest in the world – came as a complete surprise to most people and has not recovered in the 20 years since the population crashed.
But a few areas have seen improvement. The recent creation of very large marine reserves around remote islands such as the Chagos Archipelago, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and South Orkney Islands is encouraging, and there have been improvements to the fishing gear used in some areas to reduce their impact on seabird populations. In general, however, the situation remains critical, and there is little or no protection for vulnerable marine habitats which continue to be fished in destructive ways.
“There are large scale changes occurring in the oceans that weren’t known to be a problem in 1992 or 2002, such as ocean acidification or mass coral bleaching, which we now know will make sustainable ocean management even more challenging,” said Liane Veitch, the society’s marine policy officer. “Rio+20 might be our last real chance to save ocean ecosystems and make sure we can manage marine fish stocks in a sustainable way,” she said, referring to the upcoming sustainability summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Conservationist activists from the ZSL will be in Brazil at Rio+20, encouraging governments to engage with policy makers to make a difference to our oceans. As part of the Marine Reserves Coalition, they will be hosting an oceans side event, as well as presenting the Pledge for a Better Planet to global legislators, asking them to sign a contract with the youth of today to commit to improving management of the world’s resources.
Filed under: biodiversity, coral reefs, endangered species, Environment Tagged: | Earth Summit 2002, Environment, marine science, ocean conservation, Rio+20, unsustainable fisheries, Zoological Society of London