With little more than 2 months left until the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the final Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting could turn out to be a Bali Bust! The so-called “Bali Commitment,” was expected to lay out the specifics for the WSSD agreement. But the “specifics” are lacking. The current text lacks specific timelines, specific targets and specific concrete plans for implementation of partnership programs.
Oceans, energy, trade, governance and finance continue to be the most contentious issues under discussion. Yet, oceans have fared far better than expected, given that language aimed at ocean protection was utterly absent after the first PrepCom. While significant progress has been made since then, much of the text is still tentative and so remains bracketed. Astonishingly, the debate has been held hostage by a few countries who wish to continue commercial whaling and those who are resisting setting firm deadlines to meet agreed commitments.
Oceana commends the delegates for certain victories for ocean protection including calling for the:
1) Elimination of subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;
2) Elimination of destructive fishing practices;
3) Establishment of marine protected areas;
4) Acceleration of measures to address invasive alien species in the ballast water of ships; and
5) Ratification and implementation of international instruments to protect the marine environment from destructive fishing practices, pollution and environmental damage caused by ships.
However, this progress is likely to be lost without stronger commitments on other issues. The lack of progress on issues such as bio-diversity protection, climate change, and reliance on fossil fuels, monitoring and enforcement has put any real victories for ocean protection at risk. The refusal by developed countries to incorporate time targets into sustainable development actions is one of the greatest points of contention in the production of a final text. Specific targets are crucial to getting concrete actions. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil did not identify clear time targets and, as a result, fell short of producing the measures promised under the Rio Declaration.
Comprehensive efforts aimed at sustainable development are critical to the health of ocean ecosystems. Not only does the ocean cover more than 70% of the planet but 70% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or over fished and the ocean is the ultimate depository of all the earth’s waste. Therefore, a piecemeal approach to the WSSD is simply insufficient.
Given this rapid depletion of fisheries stocks around the globe, as exemplified by the recent call by the European Union to cut some national fleets by up to 60% and to end subsidies to the fishing industry, Oceana calls on the WSSD to strengthen other elements within the text. The WSSD must ultimately agree to commit to protecting the rights and interests of small-scale, artisinal and subsistence fisheries given their critical contribution to food security, poverty alleviation and employment. It must emphasize the need to apply the precautionary approach to fisheries rather than continue to emphasize – as the text currently does – the now almost universally discredited target of “maximum sustainable yield.” It must recognize the need to establish extensive networks of marine reserves on both the high seas and within EEZs and that deep cuts are needed in the capacity of the world’s industrial fishing fleets. And it must recognize the need to avoid the tremendous environmental damage and social conflict associated with intensive aquaculture, primarily shrimp aquaculture, rather than simply calling for support for “sustainable aquaculture.”
With the conference set to adjourn tomorrow, Bali is the last port before Johannesburg. The question for the world’s leaders is will we learn from our past or are we condemned to repeat it? Will we be able to leave a rich legacy for future generations?
Oceana's position on the World Summit on Sustainable Development