3 Ways UN Leaders Can Restore the World's Oceans
The ocean is in trouble. It’s being overfished, under-managed, polluted and altered in ways we’re still just beginning to understand. Environmental pressures could worsen as demand for marine resources grows.
Longline tuna fishing vessels tied up in port in Suva, Fiji. Photo credit: Mike Crispino / The Pew Charitable Trusts
This week, United Nations (UN) members will gather in New York for the Sustainable Development Summit, where they are expected to adopt a framework aimed at ending poverty and promoting prosperity—all while protecting the environment. Of the document’s 17 goals, one in particular calls on governments to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”—including effectively regulating harvesting, ending overfishing and illegal fishing and protecting at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas.
Right now, UN leaders can help transform these aspirational goals into measurable action by:
1. Adopting Robust Port Measures to Combat Illegal Fishing
Experts estimate that illegal and unreported catches of ocean fish account for up to $23.5 billion in stolen seafood yearly—or about 1 in every 5 fish taken from our oceans.
Crew of an illegal fishing vessel paint a new name on the hull at sea in an effort to avoid enforcement for crimes committed under a prior name. Photo credit: Australian Fisheries Management Authority
It’s far from practical for authorities to patrol every square mile of water, but new technologies—such as the satellite-based Project Eyes on the Seas—are making it easier to spot vessels that routinely skirt the rules. Once suspicious activity is identified, the most practical time to follow up is when a vessel is in port—through which almost all commercially caught fish, whether landed legally or not, must pass to reach market.
The UN has already shown a commitment to improved governance by adopting the Port State Measures Agreement, a treaty to cost-effectively strengthen port inspection standards for fishing vessels. The pact will take effect once 25 governments ratify it; to date, 14 have done so.
2. Setting Science-Based Catch Limits
Populations of marine species are being fished to their limits globally. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 90 percent of fish stocks are being taken from the world’s oceans at or beyond sustainable levels. Large migratory fish species, such as Pacific bluefin tuna, have seen some of the greatest declines.
In traditional fisheries management, scientists conduct stock assessments, which managers use to set quotas and other policies designed to ensure that overfishing does not occur. But too often, politics derail multilateral negotiations to set science-based limits, especially when multiple countries are collectively setting catch limits and other fishing policies for a stock. Collaboration on catch limits is often elusive even when a population’s health reaches a crisis point. That’s where harvest strategies can help. These pre-agreed upon frameworks for making fisheries management decisions can help governments plan ahead.
3. Establishing a Global Network of Large-Scale Marine Parks
Sometimes the best way to protect the most extraordinary ecosystems from illegal fishing and overfishing is to bar all fishing and other extractive activities. After all, we do this for our most special places on land, so why not at sea?
The Rock Islands in Palau in the Pacific Ocean are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo credit: Matt Rand / The Pew Charitable Trusts
Peer-reviewed studies have found more marine species and significantly larger populations, within marine reserves than in similar areas that are unprotected. Research also has concluded that populations of predatory fish increase exponentially for up to 18 years after a reserve is established.
Despite this evidence, only 1 percent of the world’s oceans are fully protected. But there are signs that the tide is turning. The U.S., Palau and the United Kingdom, among others, have recognized that reserves provide invaluable protection for marine life. And governments aren’t going it alone. In June, U.N. members agreed to move forward with negotiating a new international agreement that could lead to the establishment of large-scale marine reserves in areas that are beyond national jurisdiction.
By recognizing the vulnerability of the ocean and setting a Sustainable Development Goal to protect it, the U.N. has taken an important step. No one solution can overcome all of the challenges facing our marine environment, but by using the available suite of tools, U.N. members could make significant progress toward ensuring healthy, sustainable and productive seas for years to come.
Elizabeth Wilson directs international ocean policy for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
- Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial Into Agency Reports ... ›
- Climate Denier Is Named to Leadership Role at NOAA - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.
Did you know that nearly 30% of adults do, or will, suffer from a sleep condition at some point in their life? Anyone who has experienced disruptions in their sleep is familiar with the havoc that it can wreak on your body and mind. Lack of sleep, for one, can lead to anxiety and lethargy in the short-term. In the long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, there are proven natural supplements that can reduce insomnia and improve quality sleep for the better. CBD oil, in particular, has been scientifically proven to promote relaxing and fulfilling sleep. Best of all, CBD is non-addictive, widely available, and affordable for just about everyone to enjoy. For these very reasons, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the best CBD oil for sleep. Our goal is to provide objective, transparent information about CBD products so you are an informed buyer.
The House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill to boost clean energy while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are known pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis, as the AP reported.
- Renewable Energy Could Power the World by 2050 - EcoWatch ›
- Net Zero U.S. by 2050? House Dems Unveil Sweeping Climate ... ›
- Delayed Senate Energy Bill Promotes LNG Exports, 'Clean Coal ... ›
By Governor Jay Inslee
Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.
In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.
Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.