Thursday, November 03, 2016


An agreement to create the largest marine reserve in the world, around twice the size of Texas, has been reached by the representatives of 24 nations and the European Union that make up the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

This international deal, due to take effect in December 2017, will set aside 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea, a deep Antarctic bay 3,500 kilometres south of New Zealand, from commercial fishing and mineral exploitation.
The Ross Sea is one of the least-altered ecosystems on Earth, containing a complete array of marine mammals, seabirds and other marine life that are vulnerable to human disturbance and the effects of climate change. The biodiversity in the region includes a significant percentage of the global distributions of: Adélie penguins (38%); emperor penguins (26%); Antarctic petrels (30%); Antarctic minke whales (6%); Weddell seals (45%) and killer whales (50%). 

It is a milestone for ocean conservation and Russia’s relationship with the rest of the world. After years of unsuccessful talks, 24 nations and the European Union agreed on 28 October to create the largest marine reserve in the world, 
According to the full account in Nature :'It is the first time that countries have joined together to protect a major chunk of the high seas — the areas of ocean that are largely unregulated because they do not fall under the jurisdiction of any one nation.'
The breakthrough on this agreement, which had been undergoing negotiation for many years, was the support of Russia which had previously blocked. Scientists now hope now to accelerate marine protection efforts around the world, particularly in other regions around Antarctica.


At this year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) plans to create the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) were once again rejected. The idea was first proposed at the IWC in 2001.

This year the proposal was put forward by Brazil’s Environment Minister Sarney Filho, who said it was "high time" for the IWC to take this crucial step to adopt the SAWS initiative, “a mature proposal,” which has been revised and refined over many years. 

The proposal's co-sponsors were Gabon, South Africa, Argentina and Uruguay - coastal states who feel the SAWS would benefit them - and a one million signature petition.

South Africa claimed that new whale watching opportunities could help replace lost mining jobs and dismissed the myth that whales were responsible for the decline in fish stocks, which, he said, was clearly due to legal and illegal overfishing.

Supporters of the sanctuary proposal were India, Mexico, Monaco, the United States, Chile, Australia, and the Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union.

Opposed were Japan, Antigua and Barbuda, Guinea, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and South Korea.

An IWC vote requires a three-fourths majority to pass. The sanctuary proposal was rejected with 38 members voting in favour, but 24 opposing and two abstentions.


These are the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
These are the reasons why we need a healthy ocean.
  • No Poverty — The “Blue Economy” (fishing, shipping, tourism, aquaculture, energy production, biotechnology, etc.) is an enormous economic driver valued at $3 trillion annuallyBillions of people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. A healthy ocean can help reduce poverty.
  • Zero Hunger — Over 3 billion people depend on the ocean for nutrition, as their primary source of protein. A healthy ocean can help reduce hunger and support food security.
  • Good Health and Well-Being — Seafood provides key micronutrients that hard for many to obtain elsewhere. Chemical compounds from algae and sponges are helping to treat cancer and Alzheimer’s. The ocean supports mental health through our emotional connection to the sea, a connection which can result in neuroconservation.
  • Quality Education — Our brains don’t work well when we are hungry or malnourished. A healthy ocean means healthy and abundant seafood, which supports children’s ability to learn, and supports incomes from the Blue Economy that enable parents to pay school fees.
  • Gender Equality — In the fisheries sector, roles are highly gendered (e.g., the term “fishermen”) and discrimination (including wage discrimination) is rampant.
  • Clean Water and Sanitation — Coastal ecosystems have an impressive (and currently highly overtaxed) capacity to filter the sewage that is continually dumped into it. Wetlands, mangroves, and oyster reefs serve a highly valuable role in maintaining water quality.
  • Affordable and Clean Energy — The ocean has enormous clean energy potential that is just beginning to be harnessed, including from wind, wave, tidal, biomass, thermal conversion, and salinity gradients.
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth — Marine fishing alone (not to mention, aquaculture, tourism, and research) provides over 350 million jobs, 90% of which are in developing countries. Although many of those fishing jobs are not decent right now (overfishing means it’s often hard to make a good living, and slavery and human rights abuses proliferate), they could be.
  • Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure — Clean energy and biotechnology are burgeoning and innovative ocean industries. Coastal infrastructure is a growing focus, especially given sea level rise and the increasing frequency and severity of storms.
  • Reduced Inequalities — In places with high poverty there is often an increased dependence on natural resources. To reduce inequality, the ocean resources that people rely on to survive need to be sustainably managed and accessible.
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities — Around 50% of the world’s population lives within 60 km of the coast, and around 75% of large cities are coastal. If these communities are to be sustainable they need to have a harmonious relationship with their adjacent waters.
  • Responsible Production and Consumption — An estimated 3 million tons of seafood are caught and then discarded as bycatch each year. Meanwhile fishing is subsidized at over $25 billion a year. And we are on track to have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. None of this seems terribly responsible.
  • Climate Action — The ocean has absorbed approximately 33% of the carbon emissions since the industrial revolutionMangroves and coastal wetlands sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area.
  • Life Under Water — Yay for the ocean and all it does to support us!
  • Life on Land — Land and sea are intimately connected. Without a healthy ocean, life on land (especially in coastal areas) suffers.
  • Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions — A degraded ocean can result in a breakdown of institutions. For example, overfishing eliminates fishing livelihoods and can cause people to turn to piracy. More broadly, smuggling of people weapons, drugs, and seafood across borders and the high seas is shockingly common. Ocean conservation is a human rights and national security issue.
  • Partnerships for the Goals — The ocean knows no geopolitical or socioeconomic boundaries, and 64% of the ocean is high seas (outside of national jurisdictions). Seawater, fish, and pollution flow around the globe, making partnerships critical.

  • According to Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: 'These linkages between ocean conservation and other aspects of sustainable development are not commonly understood, and that has financial implications. Right now the ocean goal only receives 0.74% of all the philanthropic funding dedicated toward the SDGs — meanwhile the ocean is 72% of planet! If people don’t understand how intrinsic a healthy ocean is to most aspects of human well-being, they certainly won’t be motivated to invest in the solutions.

    Source: Ocean Views/National Geographic

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