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 studyshowed 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”…