Welcome to The Navigator!
This past month we’ve been reminded all too tragically of the overwhelming power of nature. The quick succession of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, José, Katia and María, that pounded the Caribbean islands and US, have led to loss of lives, homes and livelihoods on land and in the water, with whole communities, cities, islands and even marine life totally decimated. Our thoughts go out to all those affected, and we encourage everyone to give generously to support relief and rebuilding efforts in the affected areas.
It’s been interesting to see how the news has not only been filled with reports of the devastation, but also an increasing number of reports linking the severity of weather events to climate change-related warming waters and sea level rise. It's clear that as our planet warms, these events are going to become stronger and more frequent, with greater risk, hazards and vulnerabilities. For many people now, climate change isn’t an abstract concept but an immediate and terrifying reality that can strike indiscriminately. And it’s the most vulnerable and underprivileged, such as the least developed countries and small island developing states, that bear the biggest brunt.
However, if there’s one positive to take from these horrendous events, it’s the hope that they spark greater awareness, determination and action to fight climate change and to accelerate mitigation and adaptation efforts. These efforts need to recognize the central role of healthy Ocean and coastal ecosystems to stave off the negative impacts of storms and floods. There are big pay-offs from building-up the resilience of coastal habitats, by restoring mangroves and coral reefs, for example. Protecting large marine areas, so life underwater can adapt to changing circumstances, also ensures the Ocean can carry on providing essential services, such as food, coastal protection and livelihoods. That’s why the upcoming climate change meeting in Bonn could not be timelier to ensure progress. Read on for more info.
Seen from the Lighthouse – what's happening now?
Next week, the EU will play host to the Our Ocean conference in Malta. Click for the agenda and a list of side events. The cynic, (and yes there are quite a few of us around…) might ask what’s the point of yet another large Ocean shindig, so soon after the UN’s Ocean Conference in June? Since the 1st of the Our Ocean conferences was hosted by the US in 2014 (happier days), these meetings have stimulated over 250 bold commitments on Ocean protection, including more than €8.2 billion (US$ 9.2 billion) and 9.9 million km2 of new MPAs. These conferences have kept governments on their toes, and they’re also shining the spotlight on states to ensure they deliver on their promises. This year, we look forward to this trajectory continuing and perhaps adding some business voices into the mix because the Ocean is everybody's business.
If you’re not at the conference, don’t worry – you can still keep your ear to the ground by listening to interviews with influential leaders and your favourite Ocean champions on the global 24-hour internet radio station oneocean.fm, which will be broadcasting from the meeting on the 5th and 6th October. In between a flow of music from DJs, producers and artists around the world, it will broadcast on the hour, every hour, short, informative packages looking at some of the issues facing the Ocean, as well as inspiring solutions. You can also watch the live webcast and follow #OurOcean, plus there’s a twitter toolkit if you want to get active on your socials.
Things heating up for Antarctic MPA negotiations
With just over 2 weeks to go until the next meeting of CCAMLR, the body responsible for protecting the Antarctic marine area, the pressure is mounting on Australia and the EU (specifically France) to deliver a 2nd large-scale Southern Ocean MPA. Several countries would also like to see the proposal for an East Antarctic MPA dealt with this year. The proposal has been around since 2011, so you'd think the time would be ripe for action. If nothing else, this would then set the stage for the next Antarctic MPA proposal from the EU (Germany) for the protection of the amazing Weddell Sea to be the focus of next year’s meeting. A positive decision this year will require Russia and China to follow the course they set last year by supporting the designation of the Ross Sea. All eyes will be on side discussions at Our Ocean, as well as in Paris, Brussels, Moscow, Canberra and Beijing over the next few weeks.
Paving the way for support of further Antarctic MPAs, the Argentinian Embassy in Moscow organised an event recently with high-level officials from Argentina, China and Russia (including Ocean Unite Network member Russian congressman Slava Fetisov) to discuss Argentina and Chile’s initiative to create a MPA in the Western Antarctic Peninsula. The event showcased inspiring images by photographer and conservationist Paul Nicklen as well as a documentary about Antarctica created by National Geographic Pristine Seas and Sea Legacy. The Ambassadors and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation agreed to continue negotiations and discussions during the next CCAMLR meeting.
Ocean Awards 2018, young entrepreneurs needed, global youth video competition
Another reminder – if you’ve not already done so – to submit your entries to the 2018 Ocean Awards to recognize outstanding work in the field of Ocean protection. There are 5 different categories – local hero, science, innovation, visionary, and public awareness. Hurry, hurry and honour your favourite Ocean advocates now!
WANTED: Young entrepreneurs (aged 18–25) to lead a new business dedicated to Ocean conservation. If selected you'll get US$ 40k in funding, resources and mentoring. Interested? Then click here to find out more. Applications are open until 12th October 2017.
Vote for the best Global Youth Video (organised by TVE and the UNFCCC) on climate change and the Ocean. The organizers have shortlisted 20 films that showcase inspiring stories of positive actions. They are now online and open for viewing and the deadline for voting is the 6th October. The maker of the top film in each category will be invited to attend the COP23 climate talks in Bonn as a youth reporter
Call for Proposals: "Making Marine Science Matter"
The 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5), themed "Making Marine Science Matter," will be held from 24 June – 28 June 2018 in Kuching, Malaysia. OceansOnline, a full add-on day to IMCC5, will be held on the 29th June looking at "Making Marine Science Matter Through Communication and Online Resources." The Call for Proposals for both IMCC5 and OceansOnline is currently open and the deadline is the end of 15 October 2017. Decisions will be made by 15 December 2017. The selection process is highly competitive, but we encourage everyone with original or inspiring ideas to submit proposals!
For detailed submission guidelines and more information, please visit: http://conbio.org/mini-sites/imcc5/registration/call-for-proposals/. Have questions or need help then email firstname.lastname@example.org for specific queries, and please forward the to anyone who may be interested! For all the latest IMCC5 updates follow our social media accounts and the #IMCC5 hashtag.
Waves on the Horizon – what's coming up?
Climate change conference: rulebooks and global stocktakes
Countries will meet in Bonn, Germany from 6th–17th November at the annual UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) to advance implementation of the Paris Agreement, the groundbreaking climate agreement that commits to limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. This is the 1st Climate COP hosted by an island state (Fiji) and, given the recent events in the Caribbean, will focus on advancing vulnerable countries’ priorities, such as climate finance, adaptation issues and how to move forward on loss and damage.
This meeting will also deal with a long to-do list that still has to be worked out under the Paris Agreement. This includes advancing the Paris Agreement "rulebook" to ensure that strong, coherent, effective and fair rules and processes are in place by the next COP in 2018. National action also needs to be stepped up to make sure countries meet the agreement’s goals – so there will be a regular “stocktake” of efforts, starting with one next year (the “facilitative dialogue”). Then a “global stocktake” will happen every 5 years to make sure countries reflect on what’s been achieved and what still needs to happen to meet the goals.
This is also the first COP since Trump rashly pulled the US out of the Agreement. The sad irony is that since then, his country and millions of US citizens have been battered by storms that many scientists say were supercharged by climate change. Hopefully, the US’s absence at the climate change table doesn't hamper progress at the meeting or give license to other parties that are potentially skeptical of the global climate regime (such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Russia) to slow things down. However, the strong signal sent by global leaders at the recent Ministerial meeting on climate action, organised by Canada, as well as many speeches delivered by world leaders at the UN General Assembly over the past week, provides hope for progress.
As a positive response to the US leadership vacuum on climate change, a coalition of 14 US states, known as the US Climate Alliance, have taken matters into their own hands to move the country towards implementing the Paris Agreement measures. During climate week at the UN this month, several State Governors hosted a press conference with former Secretary of State John Kerry to announce that they are "on track" to hit the targets agreed in Paris. These state leaders have also been playing an important role in elevating awareness about ocean acidification as a result of increased CO2 absorption by the Ocean.
Crunch time approaching for eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is set to take some important steps at its Ministerial meeting in Argentina from 11th–13th December. For more than 15 years, multilateral talks on an agreement to ban fisheries subsidies that lead to overcapacity and overfishing have floundered. But over the past year or so, there seems to finally be a surge in political will to tackle this issue once and for all. Currently 7 proposals are on the table, proposed by a number of different countries or groups of countries. Here’s a compilation matrix that shows a comparison of the proposals. Countries are now being urged to build on the similarities and look for any gaps in the coming months. Bloom and The Varda Group have recently released a new report giving a more critical analysis of the subsidies issue, coinciding with a forum they held at WTO HQ about how to secure a successful outcome.
The key thing will be to ensure the agreement doesn’t turn into a #nothingfishburger. It’s unlikely there will be disagreement on tackling subsidies that fund illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, but banning subsidies that drive overcapacity is also essential. This includes fuel subsidies, which make up about 22% of subsidies, and are especially problematic in extending the range of distant water fleets. Other tricky issues relate to special and differential treatment for developing and least developed members (click to read more), as well as how to bring on board emerging economies such as China, which has a sizable distant water fishing fleet.
Countries have the power to make a strong agreement in December that stops public money fueling Ocean destruction, and instead shifts the billions of dollars currently going into harmful subsidies towards funding sustainability commitments such as sustainable and precautionary fisheries management, research and MPAs. Let’s not let this opportunity slip through the net.
Click here for a forward looking calendar
Ocean Reflections – a look back at what's been happening
Chile upping its MPA game at IMPAC 4
News travelled far and wide of the Chilean government’s announcement at the International Marine Protected Area Conference (IMPAC 4) of their official designation of 3 large MPAs: one of the world’s largest MPAs, Rapa Nui or Easter Island (740,000 km2); Juan Fernandez Archipelago (480,000 km2); and Cabo de Hornos (147,000 km2). The announcements mean that the protection of Chile’s EEZ will increase from 4.3% in 2014, to 46% in 2018.
Other news from the meeting includes a high-level Call to Action for financing for MPAs, integrating climate change considerations into MPAs, and greater engagement with women, youth and local communities in MPA creation and management. In addition, UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre and IUCN launched their latest and more interactive online version of their MPA database: marine.protectedplanet.net. And a website was launched that allows MPA practitioners to generate new classification for their sites based on what activities the sites allow and how those activities could impact biodiversity. The Marine Conservation Institute announced the 3 winners of its 1st Global Ocean Refuge System Awards (GLORES, pronounced "glories"): Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
Ocean plastic not to be taken with a pinch of salt
Just in case you missed them, several horrifying studies came out this month on plastics. While we are all very aware of the plastic littering our Ocean, we didn't all realize that it’s also found in our tap water. A recent study showed that more that 80% of samples collected from over 5 continents tested positive for plastic fibres. And as if that was not shocking enough, microplastics are in our table salt and polystyrene has found its way onto remote Arctic ice floes.
Growing awareness of the problem has prompted discussions on the global stage, with some taking political action. Continuing her trend of Ocean leadership, President Bachelet of Chile announced at the UN this month that plastic bags will be banned in all coastal cities, making Chile the first country in the Americas to do so. We’d prefer a country-wide ban that follows in the footsteps of Rwanda or Kenya, but it’s great to see Chile joining more than 40 countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed plastic bags.
Splash of hope for Pacific bluefin tuna
A recent joint meeting of 2 regional organizations that manage Pacific bluefin tuna (the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission) agreed to take steps that would result in a 7-fold increase in the population from current levels. While this may sound like a huge increase, the population is currently down to only 2.6% of its historic levels due to overfishing. The new plan aims to rebuild the population to 20% by 2034, which is seen as the minimum necessary by scientists to ensure the species’ future. Japan’s turnaround on resisting rebuilding measures, due to increased international pressure including from chefs, politicians and NGOs, meant a breakthrough could finally happen. But it’s not all blue skies for the Pacific bluefin, as problems such as illegal fishing, climate change and countries overshooting their quotas still remains a real concern for the future of the species. Click for the meeting’s summary.
Protection for North Atlantic high seas seamounts
Over the past 10 years ago, the UN agreed a number of resolutions that committed states and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to preventing damage to deep-sea life from the destructive effects of bottom fishing, or else to stop fishing altogether. Since then many RFMOs have established ongoing processes to identify and protect areas, including the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). Last week, NAFO held its 1st meeting under an amended Convention, which came into force earlier this year, that increases obligations to rebuild depleted fish stocks and manage them according to an ecosystem approach, i.e. they should not only consider target species when making management decisions but also seabed habitats and non-target species that get caught up in fishing nets.
NAFO agreed to extend further protections to the New England Seamount chain, creating a link to the closures within US waters (see NAFO’s press release for what was agreed at the meeting). But, unfortunately, it didn't agree to close additional seamounts as advised by scientists in 2014, scientific trawl surveys continue to pose a very high risk of damage to the fragile seafloor, and quotas for high seas fish stocks were agreed above scientific recommendations. Obviously there is still some way to go before they get the hang of that “ecosystem approach”…
Other Key News
- Peru joins Port State Measures Agreement to combat IUU fishing
- Great Barrier Reef plan to improve water quality ignores scientific advice
- New Zealand’s fisheries quota management system on an undeserved pedestal
- As big marine reserves proliferate, there's a new focus on enforcement
- Gambia turns to private companies for maritime policing
- Sea Shepherd activists bring Timor-Leste police to Chinese-owned boat full of dead sharks
- 10 national monuments the US wants to shrink and open up to commercial fishing
- Indonesian fisheries minister, Susi, plans to sink 100 more illegal fishing boats this year
- EU countries authorized their vessels to fish unlawfully in African waters
- Former UNGA President, Peter Thomson, appointed as Special Envoy for the Ocean
- Discovery of a new group of sponges could help measure impact of deep-sea mining
- Study shows global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed’s marine fauna
- Article shows temperate marine species shifting their ranges poleward
- New research delivers hope for reef fish living in a high CO2 world
- Small-scale fisheries have big impact on the Ocean
- Climate change challenges the survival of fish around the world
- New report says that Philippines is 3rd worst polluter of the Ocean