Uniting and activating powerful voices for ocean conservation

Ocean Reflections

reflectionsA 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.