Ocean experts plan to salvage Rio+20 disappointment

Ocean conservation experts on Friday challenged governments to prove they are serious about protecting oceans after a “disappointing” Rio+20 earth summit.

The text negotiated at last week’s earth summit in Brazil fell short of the ambitious agreement needed to protect the world’s oceans and fish stocks, said a panel of ocean law and conservation experts on the penultimate day of the summit.

Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said that the text, while disappointing, presented several opportunities for governments to show their commitment to protecting the ocean’s resources with concrete actions.

Such actions included phasing out destructive fishing practices in international and national waters, closing ports to illegal fishing vessels, cooperation with the World Trade Organisation to eliminate harmful fishing subsidies and progress on the development of regional marine protected areas.

Ocean law expert Kristina Gjerde of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said that Rio+20 had failed to establish a legal framework for marine protected areas under international law and instead left conservation up to “small-scale coalitions of the willing” operating at regional levels.

She added that she was disappointed that negotiators had made no progress on a 2010 international agreement to protect 10 per cent of the world’s coastal and marine areas, despite substantial input from the scientific community.

Duncan Currie, a lawyer for the NGO International Oceans, noted that the “appalling” results of the negotiations were offset by several achievements.

Negotiators included the following in the Rio+20 text :

  • Strengthened wording on overfishing that specified actions – including fishing bans – that governments must take to protect fish stocks and biodiversity;
  • Specific actions for eliminating illegal fishing such as better monitoring of ports and assistance for authorities in developing countries;
  • A commitment to transparent and accountable marine management within regional fisheries through the use of publicly available independent assessments that authorities commit to implementing;
  • Specific actions to eliminate harmful subsidies – such as fuel subsidies - for the fishing industry.

Deep Sea Conservation’s Mr Gianni said that for all its shortcomings, the Rio+20 conference had kept alive in the political and public consciousness the need to protect oceans.

“Hopefully, we will be able to use that to push - in force - for some real changes…over the next coming months and years,” he added.

 

The accompanying video of the panel briefing - organised by the International Programme for the State of the Ocean (IPSO) - was produced by Oceans Inc, an NGO dedicated to raising awareness about ocean conservation.

Video production by Large Blue, video distribution by GREEN.TV.

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