WSSD Misses the Boat: Draft Political Declaration Fails to Mention Oceans
Press Release Date: October 6, 2009
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Dawn M. Martin, Oceana; Ellen Pikitch, Wildlife Conservation Society; Isabel Torres de Noronha, GEOTA; Jacob Scherr, Natural Resources Defense Council; Shaun Paul, EcoLogic Development Fund; Biliana Cicin-Sain, Center For the Study of Marine Policy, and International Ocean and Coastal Organization; Hiroshi Terashima, SOF Institute for Ocean Policy; Philippe Vallette, NAUSICAA, National Sea Center, France; Daeseok Kang, Korea Maritime Institute; Stefano Belfiore, Center for the Study of Marine Policy; Tom Goreau, Global Coral Reef Alliance and WSSD Civil Society Global Forum on Oceans
The lack of reference to oceans in the Draft Political Declaration by the Heads of State is a serious disappointment and a missed opportunity. Despite countless hours of work by an unprecedented alliance of organizations and ocean advocates to urge the Heads of State to make a strong statement on oceans, the Draft Political Declaration is silent.
Earth’s oceans are at risk and, as a result, the circle of life is in jeopardy. Oceans, which cover more than two-thirds of the world’s surface, provide life, sustenance, and important discoveries and medicines, such as AZT derived from ocean sponges. But, as is evident by the September 2 Draft Declaration, the Summit has taken these necessities for granted. The world’s oceans are being exploited through unnecessary and devastating activities such as unsustainable fishing practices, pollution and the annihilation of the ecosystems that nurture us all. As 95 percent of all living space on the planet is in the oceans, it is not acceptable that the Draft Political Declaration fails to make any mention of the importance of the oceans. We cannot have sustainable development without sustainable use of the oceans.
The complete absence of any ocean language in the Draft Declaration is indicative of a lack of commitment by the Summit to take this problem seriously. In fact, the degradation of the oceans is not simply a problem that worries conservationists around the world; it also poses a serious danger to international food security, the livelihood of fishing communities, and the eradication of poverty all over the planet. Habitat degradation has reduced the capacity for fisheries to recover even if fishing efforts are reduced, and active restoration of coastal habitats is needed. Coral reef ecosystems are threatened with extinction from global climate change, threatening the biodiversity, fisheries, shore protection and tourism of over one hundred countries.
Ten years ago, independent nations from around the globe realized that in order to overcome the environmental crisis facing each of them individually, they must unite forces. They came together at the Rio Earth Summit and agreed to tackle global warming, forests, biodiversity and other important environmental issues. Although much has been accomplished, progress on protecting the oceans from destructive fishing practices, wasted catch, pollution and habitat loss has been abysmal. Less than one percent of the world’s oceans are currently protected. Twenty-five percent of the world’s fish catch – 44 billion pounds of fish and marine life – is discarded dead and dying each year, and more than 70 percent of the world’s fisheries need urgent action to prevent population declines. At risk is the fine work outlined in the WSSD’s Plan of Implementation on eliminating fishing subsidies, destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling and bycatch, illegal fishing activities, and establishing marine protected areas.
The Plan of Implementation includes language that can serve as an important first step by including a number of explicit deadlines and concrete targets. Taken together, these provisions put us much further ahead than we were ten years ago at Rio. Despite the disappointing Draft Political Declaration, we remain dedicated to continuing the fight to protect the world’s oceans and the circle of life.
Suggested Changes to Include Reference to the Oceans to the Draft Political Declaration
Submitted by the President of the Summit, 2 September 2002
¶29. Insert: “terrestrial, marine and coastal” before biodiversity.
¶38. Insert: “and fisheries” after sustainable agriculture. Add at the end: “We recognize that coastal fisheries are a major source of protein for developing nations including small island developing states.”
¶40. Insert: “living marine and coastal resources” after hydropower. Add at the end: “We recognize the essential links between water quality on the land and in the coastal and ocean environment.
¶42. Insert: “freshwater, coastal and ocean waters” after air.
¶44. Insert: “terrestrial, and coastal and ocean” before biological diversity. Insert: “and ocean and coastal degradation” after desertification. Insert: “on land and in the oceans, islands and coasts” after biodiversity. Delete: “loss” after biodiversity.
Add new ¶: The world’s coasts and oceans are a shared resource essential to poverty eradication and sustaining life on this planet and must be protected and managed sustainably.