Oceana Calls on World Leaders to Adopt Strongest Provisions on Ocean Conservation | Oceana

Oceana Calls on World Leaders to Adopt Strongest Provisions on Ocean Conservation

Press Release Date: October 6, 2009

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

Oceana, a non-profit international ocean conservation organization, called on the World Summit on Sustainable Development to adopt the strongest provisions possible to halt the destruction of our oceans and sustain our circle of life. The degradation of the oceans seriously threatens food security and the eradication of poverty across the globe. As the ocean exhibition at the Water Dome opens, Oceana urges the delegates to approve the specific time frames outlined in Paragraphs 29-34 on oceans in the Chairman’s draft Plan of Implementation. Oceana, on behalf of its members and activists in nearly 200 nations worldwide, calls on the Heads of State to issue strong declarations to rebuild ocean life.

Oceana joined today with Wildlife Conservation Society in issuing an Oceans Scorecard to measure progress by the Summit on protecting and sustaining the world’s oceans. With some promising language already drafted, the two organizations have given the draft Plan a score of 60 out of 100. However, the Summit still has unfinished business to complete in several provisions of the Plan and has yet to issue its political declaration. The scorecard will be updated over the course of the Summit to spur agreement on the strongest ocean sections and political declaration.

“’Only comes hunger from the oceans’ was the cry of a delegate at the Bali preparatory conference, a lament that powerfully demonstrates the devastation of our oceans,” said Dawn M. Martin, Oceana Chief Operating Officer. “Where Rio failed to impose specific time frames to ensure the sustainability of the oceans, this Summit has the opportunity to secure firm deadlines for action to launch the repair of our oceans. The world’s food security is at risk and island nations are suffering from a lack of protein, we must have solid commitments from Johannesburg.”

The proposed language on oceans in the Plan of Implementation holds significant promise as some of the strongest language in the entire document. It far exceeds the oceans chapter in the Rio Earth Summit. Ten years ago, the world convened in Rio to overcome the Earth’s environmental crises. Though commitments to reduce global warming and address biodiversity were significant, Rio produced only vague promises for the oceans resulting in further over fishing, destruction of marine habitats, and pollution.

The ocean provisions in paragraphs 29 to 34 of the Chairman’s draft Plan of Implementation makes great strides in linking language to existing legal frameworks, establishing regular mechanisms for international coordination, developing regional plans in accordance with international agreements, halting the breakdown of the marine environment from pollution and damage caused by ships, defining sustainable fishing limits, eliminating subsidies that promote illegal fishing, and promoting diverse solutions for balanced management of ocean resources. None of these provisions were featured in Rio.

However, there are four key provisions in the text that still have proposed time frames in brackets. Oceana will be working to ensure that these deadlines are formally adopted in the Plan. The Summit should agree to: 1) ratify and fully implement the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; 2) fish population levels that can sustain the “maximum sustainable yield” by 2015; 3) stronger mechanisms to reduce pollution from ships by flag states in accordance with International Maritime Organization instruments; and 4) a strong statement in the political declaration to ensure the sustainability of the oceans.

“This important and ground-breaking Plan carries no weight unless countries adopt the document and pass their own laws to implement these strategies. Moreover, national laws cannot protect the global oceans commons unless strong international treaties are enforced over the High Seas,” said Martin.

The stakes are high for our ocean’s food supply. Twenty-five percent of the world’s fish catch – 44 billion pounds of fish and thousands of ocean animals – are unintentionally caught and discarded, dead and dying, each year. Such wasted catch and other destructive fishing practices are a large part of the reason why more than 70 percent of marine fish species worldwide need urgent action to prevent population declines. Pollution from ships, including oil, toxic chemicals, garbage, and sewage, is a major threat to ocean wildlife. Toxic air pollution that falls into the oceans also seriously harms sea life.

Oceana will have an exhibit at the H2O pavilion in the Water Dome providing informative materials, a visual demonstration of the progression of ocean life destruction and a viewing of a PBS documentary “Empty Oceans, Empty Nets” exploring the immense changes threatening marine fisheries worldwide and efforts to restore and sustain them.

Oceana is a non-profit international environmental organization created for the sole purpose of protecting the world’s oceans to sustain the circle of life. In May 2002, Oceana merged with the American Oceans Campaign to bring together dedicated people from around the world to build an international movement to save the oceans through public policy advocacy, science, economics, legal action, grassroots mobilization, and public education. www.oceana.org.