Environment: UN renews call for ocean protection

A trail of broken promises on ocean conservation …

Earth's oceans need more TLC, a new UN report says. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In preparation for the 2012 conference on sustainable development in Rio, several UN organizations last week released a new report that sounds the alarm about the health of  oceans and explains how it influences our everyday life by regulating the climate, providing highly-nutritious food and by sustaining livelihoods and economies.

Although the oceans account for 70 percent of the surface of our planet, only 1 percent of it is protected, the report explains, proposing a 10-step program to move toward a more sustainable future.

Those steps are:

·         Create a global blue carbon market as a means of creating direct economic gain through habitat protection;

·         Fill governance gaps in the high seas, by reinforcing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

·         Support the development of green economies in small island developing states

·         Promote research on ocean acidification  -how to adapt to it and mitigate it

·         Increase institutional capacity for scientific monitoring of oceans and coastal areas

·         Reform and reinforce regional ocean management organisations

·         Promote responsible fisheries and aquaculture in a green economy

·         Strengthen legal frameworks to address aquatic invasive species

·         “Green” the nutrient economy to reduce ocean hypoxia and promote food security

·         Enhance coordination, coherence and effectiveness of the UN system on ocean issues

The Blueprint was prepared by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the United Nations Development Programme the International Maritime Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

According to the report, 60 percent of the world’s major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably, resulting in huge economic and social losses.

Mangrove forests have lost 30 to 50 percent of their original cover in the last 50 years while coral reefs have declined by 20 percent, increasing the vulnerability of many highly populated coastal areas. The ocean absorbs close to 26 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide emission, which is leading to increasing acidification. The process threatens plankton at the base of the marine food chain.

Some of these phenomena are not new but are aggravated by cumulative pressures such as climate change, intensified human activity and technological advances. Deep-ocean  ecosystems, where biodiversity and habitats often have major value, but are generally not well understood and have virtually no protection at all.

The international community pledged to tackle these challenges at the 1992 Rio Summit and the 2002 Johannesburg summit but those commitments made remain largely ineffectual and their objectives have not been met.

The broken promises include a pledge to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, and to create networks of protected marine areas by 2012.

Few countries have adopted legislation to reduce land-based marine pollution, leading to an increase in the number of dead ocean areas. More than 400 marine areas have been listed as “biologically dead” to date.

“The full implementation of many of these goals and targets will require further efforts by States, intergovernmental organizations and the international community,” state the authors of the report.

They claim the present situation is the result of insufficient political will and resources, inadequate institutional capacities, insufficient scientific data and market imbalances.

“Greening the Blue Economy will be science and technology driven,” they conclude. “But success will depend on sound policy processes and effective institutional arrangements and will therefore require commitment and funding from the international community as well as nations and industry.”


One thought on “Environment: UN renews call for ocean protection

  1. A conflict in understanding, how the countries that study the effects on the oceans, are the same ones who abuse them! It’s not out of ignorance that they do it, but still. . . . . . . . !

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