Uniting and activating powerful voices for ocean conservation

The Navigator

Welcome to The Navigator!

The summer holidays are fast-approaching for some of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and if you’re one of the lucky ones you’ll be spending time at the beach. But there’s still loads to keep all us Ocean warriors busy! So enjoy this month’s edition of The Navigator and remember the one key message for this month: we need a HIGH for the HIGH SEAS! Read on for more details…

Seen from the Lighthouse – what's happening now?   lighthouse

High Seas Treaty: the final countdown

The 4th and final UN preparatory meeting (PrepCom) taking place in New York from the 10th to 21st July will hopefully be the home-run before the world says “yes” to a new legally binding agreement to protect high seas biodiversity. The plan is for governments to make a recommendation to the United Nations General Assembly to convene an intergovernmental conference that further develops and finalises the text of this new agreement. It’s not a moment too soon for all us high seas veterans. After more than a decade of discussion and negotiation, this process must not fall at the finishing line. The Treaty has been described as the Paris Agreement for the Oceans – it’s HUGE… Recent changes in leadership and policies, most notably by the United States, must not jeopardise what the international community has achieved together so far on this issue.

June's The Ocean Conference at the UN in New York has hopefully kept the wind in the sails of the high seas issue. It was really encouraging to hear a good number of governments voicing the need for this new agreement, as well as Sir Richard Branson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sylvia Earle – just three of the many Ocean activists/celebrities who participated in the Conference.

Need reminding why the high seas need protecting? Then check out this video ("High Seas Need Protection") and the High Seas Alliance, and make your voice heard via #ThisWay2Treaty on why we need action at the final PrepCom meeting.

Arctic Heavy fuel oil ban up for discussion at July’s IMO Meeting
The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) opens in London on the 3rd July. Canada, backed by Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States, has submitted a proposal to the MEPC calling for work to begin within the IMO to develop measures that mitigate risks from the use and carriage of that dirty pollutant heavy fuel oil (HFO) by ships in the Arctic. This follows the recent adoption of the European Parliament’s Arctic Resolution, which amongst other things, calls for a ban on the use of HFO in Arctic waters.

Show your support for getting heavy fuel out of the Arctic by signing up here and urging countries @HFOFreeArctic to support a ban at the IMO.

Calling all MPA proposals: New funds available for Ocean protection
Do you know of a marine protected area (MPA) project that needs just a little extra help to succeed? Then check out the Waitt Foundation’s new initiative MPAs Over the Finish Line, which aims to identify projects where 6 to 12 months of additional, targeted funding will result in legally binding successful MPAs. Awards will range from US$50k to US$150k. No-take MPAs are strongly preferred. The submission deadline for proposals is 8th September 2017.

In addition, the German government has just launched its Blue Action Fund, which calls for proposals for Ocean conservation projects – mainly in the coastal waters of Africa, Latin America and the Asia/Pacific – that aim to reduce “the dramatic loss of marine biodiversity and to advance local development”. The first call for proposals intends to provide 4 to 6 grants, each worth €1-3 million, for marine conservation in small island developing states. Hurry, as the application time is tight – the deadline is 3rd August. Click here for more information on how to access these grants.


Waves on the Horizon – what's coming up?

Deep-sea mining on the horizon

The UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) is holding its annual session from 7–18th August in Jamaica. Under the guidance of the new ISA Secretary-General, the UN body is taking on the major chore of developing new regulations for seabed mining and outlining how they’ll be enforced. It will probably take 2 to 3 more years for the ISA to vote on the final approval of this new mining code, so now is a crucial time for negotiations of these new rules.

Seabed mining in shallow waters for gravel, sand, phosphates, gold and diamonds has been happening for decades around the world. But prospectors for deep-sea mining are now eyeing resources such as manganese, copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, platinum, and a medley of minerals called rare earth elements, further out from shore on the Ocean floor beyond national jurisdictions. Until now the high cost of building machines to operate commercially in these extreme conditions has been prohibitive, however, some contractors are now confident in their technical capacities to mine the seafloor at depths of up to 6,000 metres. Commercial deep-sea mining under 500 metres could move from a dream to reality within the next 5–10 years. Indeed, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, a Canadian company called Nautilus could start deep-sea mining as early as 2019.

Only UNCLOS signatory states or contractors working for a signatory state can mine in these areas beyond national jurisdiction, and then only if they have a license from the ISA. Nobody is mining in these areas yet, although 26 exploration permits have been issued.

However, environmental campaigners are very concerned about the impact these mining activities would have on Earth’s final frontier – the deep sea floor. With every deep-sea expedition unveiling weird and wonderful species, can we give the green light to mine these areas when scientists don’t even know what the effects of mining could be or what we could be losing? Scientists say biodiversity loss from deep-sea mining will be unavoidable and a number of environmental groups argue that deep-sea mining should be banned altogether, and efforts should go into better product design and recycling. A 2016 report called into question the need for deep-sea mining to fulfil mineral demands for the renewables industry, while Apple’s recent commitment to a no-mining future has put a dampener on deep-sea mining ambitions.

NGOs – such as those that are part of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition – are keeping close tabs on developments, and will be at the annual ISA session arguing for strong regulations that ensure the protection of deep-sea habitats. It should be a lively time…at least within the never-hurry context of international decision making…

MPA Congress coming up in Chile
Chile will be hosting the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4) from the 4–8th September. The Congress happens every 4 years, bringing together the "who’s who" of the MPA community. This year’s theme – “MPAs: Bringing the ocean and people together” – aims to show the benefits MPAs bring to the Ocean and the millions who depend on its ecosystem services.

The 2017 Global Ocean Refuges will also be announced at IMPAC. The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) is an initiative spearheaded by the Marine Conservation Institute that tries to encourage decision makers to establish effective MPAs. 5 sites have been identified that meet the GLORES’ science-based standards and qualify for an award, and GLORES is now seeking feedback on these nominations by the 17th July – on whether the evaluation report has missed anything or got anything wrong. This information will be submitted to the GLORES Science Council to determine the award status (platinum, gold, silver, no award) of the nominated sites. To learn more and spread the word check out this blog and follow @savingoceans and #GLORES.

Our Ocean Conference
After New York, it’s the European Union’s turn to take centre stage with all things Oceans when Malta hosts the 2017 Our Ocean conference on behalf of the EU on the 5–6th October. Its key message is “Mi Ocean es tu Ocean” – or something like that. The plan is to build on the commitments of the past 3 Our Ocean conferences, report back on progress made on past commitments, and inspire new ones. In particular, the conference is hoping that corporate leaders will come to the table, and companies with the “most ambitious and measurable pledges” will be able to profile them at the meeting. Click here to ask for more information, while if you are looking for inspiration check out Ocean Unite’s the Ocean is Everybody’s Business. The EU has also launched its own initiatives, including beach clean-ups by EU staff, "Malta’s Schools Love our Ocean” project, a travelling exhibition around the EU on plastic pollution, and world aquariums against marine litter.

This meeting is a good opportunity for the EU to reflect upon the Mediterranean Sea, which has become a “poster child” for biodiversity loss and a serious lack of control over the fishing industry in the region. A recent study by the European Commission says that 93% of the Mediterranean's assessed fish stocks are over-exploited, and a number are on the verge of depletion. It has lost 41% of its marine mammals and 34% of the total fish population over the past 50 years. Meaningful action is needed to fight IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing in the region – indeed a good start would be for Malta to stop handing out Flags of Convenience to vessels! Other EU governments need to let fish and marine life bounce back through listening to scientific advice when setting catch limits, stopping destructive fishing activities such as bottom-trawling, and scaling up their network of marine reserves.

Click here for a forward-looking calendar.


Ocean Reflections – a look back at what's been happening

The Ocean Conference

Around 4,000 delegates attended The Ocean Conference from 5–9th June in New York, including royalty, celebrities, ministers, a number of heads of state, and a surprising appearance from Zimbabwean President-non-grata Robert Mugabe. Co-hosts Fiji and Sweden should give themselves a pat on the back as, by and large, the meeting was considered a success.

By the end of the meeting there were more than 1,300 voluntary commitments made by governments and organisations, ranging from announcements to expand MPA coverage, including one of the largest MPAs in Africa, to action on fighting plastic pollution, greater shark and ray protection, seafood companies pledging to fish sustainably, private sector partnerships pledging to raise awareness on the Ocean crisis, and many more. Probably the biggest success was not actually the 3 main formal outcomes (Call for Action, Registry of voluntary commitments or Partnership dialogues) but the networking, info-sharing, alliance building and growing awareness of the plight of the Ocean.

The meeting also served as a platform for several initiatives, such as the handing over of a petition to the UN signed by more than one million people, which urged governments to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. Oneocean.fm made radio waves over the week with its interviews, short, informative packages and endless stream of cool music from around the world. There were over 40,000 listeners in the first week, and through the various distribution partners the station reached more than 100 million people!

Click here for the final report of the meeting, and if you have the time take a look at these detailed daily summaries from ENB. In terms of next steps, implementation of the SDGs will continue to be monitored and discussed at the UN's High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF); the next HLPF will take place on the 10–19th July. Kenya and Portugal have offered to host a follow-up meeting on SDG 14 in 2020.

Moving forward, a key issue to address will be ensuring clearer plans on how to monitor the delivery of all these new commitments.

Progress at Indian Ocean Tuna meeting
Environmental campaigners were fairly optimistic about the outcomes of the recent meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). While the meeting has been plagued for years with procrastination and inaction, this year showed more awareness by some parties (unfortunately still not all) of the threats Indian Ocean tuna is facing and the need to act.

The meeting agreed to a reduction in fish aggregating devices (FADs) from 425 active FADs tracked per vessel at any time to 350. It also agreed to cut the number of supply vessels significantly in coming years – a big step toward stopping IUU fishers offloading their illegal catch away from watching eyes. Action was also taken with regards to controlling bycatch and driftnets, and progress was made on the harvest strategy workplan. However, there’s still a long way to go – reductions in yellowfin tuna catch were not by as much as science is recommending, and some measures were not as strong as they could be.

Port state measures and Global Record of fishing vessels – key developments in fighting IUU fishing

For the first time since the agreement of the new Port State Measures Agreement last year, parties met in Norway, Oslo, from the 29th–31st May, focusing on implementation and capacity building to ensure effective compliance. While the plan was to meet 4 years after the entry into force of the agreement, it was agreed more meetings are needed initially (every 2 years) to work out the more technical elements of the agreement. The next meeting will be in Chile before the end of 2019. Click for a report of the meeting.

third meeting of the Global Record Working Group took place this week in Italy. The Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels is another essential tool in the fight against Illegal fishing. This global initiative by the FAO works with State authorities and regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to compile an online, global, one-stop database of vessels involved in fishing operations. An essential element is the assignment of a unique vessel identifier (UVI) to each vessel worldwide, which remains constant throughout the vessel’s lifetime regardless of change of name, ownership or flag.

After years in the making, the first working version was launched in April. This Record will be invaluable to the work of officials who can now refer to it when carrying out risk analyses and inspections of vessels, deciding on whether to allow foreign-flagged vessels to land their catches in their ports. It will be a very handy tool for flag states when checking a vessel’s history before issuing a flag, and also help NGOs to check up on the current or past status of a vessel and its fishing-related operations, and allow members of the public to get involved and report any suspicious vessels.

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