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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
The Navigator this month is all about gearing up for Earth Day and mobilizing action ahead of the big biodiversity and climate summits later this year. And what could be more important than new evidence of the central role of the Ocean in addressing global challenges? A ground-breaking new global study released this month shows more clearly than ever how protecting the Ocean delivers a positive triple whammy solution for climate, fishing and biodiversity. In one staggering finding, the 26 marine scientists and economists behind the study reveal for the first time how bottom trawling pumps out 1 gigaton of carbon every year – that’s as much as the entire aviation industry! To aid decision-makers, the study maps out key Ocean areas that should be protected to safeguard marine life, boost seafood production, and reduce climate emissions – and shows how globally coordinated efforts could be nearly twice as efficient as uncoordinated, national-level planning. The analysis adds to the arsenal of science supporting the “30×30” target to protect a minimum of 30% of the Ocean by 2030, already adopted by a coalition of 50 countries and which we hope will be translated into an official global target at CBD COP15 in Kunming in October.
In more good news: Chris Bertish, an adventurer who spent 93 days travelling across the Atlantic alone and unassisted on a stand-up paddle board (just stop and think on that for a few seconds), has joined the Ocean Unite Network. Drawing on his successes as a big wave surfer, adventurer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Chris has another plan up his sleeve involving an even more daring feat that we are looking forward to sharing in the near future. Welcome aboard Chris!
Finally, Dr Jane Lubchenco, Ocean Unite Network member extraordinaire, was appointed deputy director for climate and environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Congratulations Jane, no pressure, but all our hopes and dreams are with you!
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
Outrage as IOTC kicks the yellow fin can down the road – again!
The Special Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held from 8th-12th March ended in deadlock as member states yet again failed to agree on long overdue targets to address rapidly depleting yellowfin tuna stocks, opting instead to delay the decision until the Annual Meeting in June. With yellowfin stocks currently fished at 20% above sustainable levels, many Indian Ocean coastal and island states joined NGOs in condemning this reckless dereliction of duty. Scientists warn that stocks of yellowfish tuna in the Indian Ocean could collapse within the next 5 years; even if ambitious targets are agreed in June they will not come into effect until 2022 – a delay that this fishery and the millions who depend on it cannot afford.
Tensions were running high before the talks even began. Ahead of the Special Session, island states including the Seychelles and the Maldives accused the EU – whose industrial fleet is the biggest taker of yellowfin in the Indian Ocean – of “hypocrisy and neocolonialism” and called the EU’s proposal for rebuilding yellowfin stocks “woefully inadequate” compared to far more ambitious targets championed by the Maldives. After the dismal outcome of the meeting, WWF accused IOTC member states of “pushing yellowfin to the brink and threatening the livelihoods and food security of millions of people across the Indian Ocean”. There was also no agreement on a proposal by Kenya and Sri Lanka to restrict the use of harmful drifting-FADs (fish aggregating devices) widely used by industrial purse seine vessels targeting yellowfin tuna. Ocean Unite joined over 100 other signatories of a joint letter to IOTC delegates supporting this proposal. Since 2015, industrial purse seine vessels have caught over 98 million juvenile yellowfin tuna around their drifting-FADs, not to mention countless endangered turtles, sharks and marine mammals. But despite backing by major retailers – including Sainsbury’s in the UK, Woolworths in South Africa, and EDEKA in Germany – no decision on this harmful fishing practice was taken at the divided IOTC Special Session. Calls for effective measures to address this threat will continue.
Maybe it’s time to turn the tide for fisheries decisions. Instead of business as usual, reversing the burden of proof so that the assumption is that there is no fishing until everyone agrees to precautionary, science-based and ecosystem based measures. That could get us to science-based recommended levels of protected areas in international waters too. Find out more and access all the Ocean Unite resources on the issue here.
Brussels bolsters its International Ocean Governance agenda
The EU International Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum) on 20th April brings together Ocean actors, stakeholders and high-level international representatives from within and beyond Europe to share insight, experiences and good practices and develop strategies for action on Ocean governance. The Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries – and OU Network Member – Virginijus Sinkevičius will open the event and present the next steps for the IOG agenda. This will be the 3rd and final IOG Forum, following major events in April and December 2020, and is an opportunity to strengthen the EU’s role in improving Ocean governance by shaping recommendations into concrete and ambitious actions – hopefully including taking a lead on securing a robust High Seas Treaty in 2021.
The IOG Forum recommendations will support the development of the International Ocean Governance Agenda – the EU’s plan of action for the future of our Ocean, an integral part of the European Green Deal and the EU’s contribution to achieving SDG14. Registration for the Forum is open – sign up here. But hang on – is this the same EU that scuppered proposals for sustainable tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean a couple of weeks ago (see previous story)? That doesn’t sound like very good co-ordinated international Ocean governance. They’d better start practicing what they preach or people will think they’re trying to have their (fish) cake and eat it too!
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Dear Mr. President – Don't forget the Ocean on Earth Day!
The countdown to Earth Day has begun and this year 22nd April/Earth Day should be highlighted on everyone’s calendar, not least because the United States is convening a virtual Leaders’ Climate Summit to bring together the leaders of the world’s major economies. Earth Day 2021 is also the 5th anniversary of the opening of the Paris Agreement for signature, so the Summit is a fitting moment to warmly welcome the US back to the global climate talks. President Biden is using this event to both challenge his own climate team to deliver ambitious national commitments and to mobilize other major emitters ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year. And an injection of climate ambition cannot come soon enough, as driven home in the recent UN Initial NDC Synthesis Report. It issues a red alert for our planet by calculating that the emissions cuts pledged so far are only about 3% lower than those submitted in 2015, and nowhere close to what’s needed to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. Our leaders urgently need to get a grip on the climate crisis.
2021 is a key year in the fight against climate change, but just a focus on emissions commitments is not enough given the important role we know nature can play in this fight. That’s why Ocean Unite joined 15 US conservation NGOs to send an urgent letter to President Biden imploring him not to forget the Ocean on Earth Day. The letter urges the President to ensure that the Summit addresses actions that can be taken in 2021 to both mitigate climate change and bolster the climate resilience of the Ocean, including adopting a global target to protect at least 30% of the global Ocean by 2030 and finalizing a strong High Seas Treaty. 20 members of the Ocean Unite Network sent a separate letter to Secretary Kerry calling for strong ocean-climate action. The Leaders’ Climate Summit is a vital opportunity to focus global attention on the Ocean-climate nexus – let’s hope President Biden grasps it.
Beyond Biden’s historic Leaders’ Summit, earthday.org is supporting a host of events with governments, universities, communities and NGOs around the world. Learn more about what’s happening on Earth Day and get involved here.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
World Ocean Summit reality check: we can't afford not to invest in Ocean resilience
The Economist Group’s 8th Annual World Ocean Summit Virtual Week from 1st-5th March aimed at “Accelerating a Sustainable Ocean Economy” and produced memorable, pragmatic interventions on challenges from plastics to shipping to Ocean risk. Highlights include our own Karen Sack participating in the lively session on ‘Finance: Driving investment into natural capital to increase coastal resilience’ (available to watch here), Emily Landis of The Nature Conservancy spoke about carbon resilience credits and how investment can protect and restore vital marine ecosystems. Chip Cunliffe of AXA XL stressed the urgent need to invest in nature and integrate adaptation measures into our plans, and OU Founder and former President of Costa Rica José María Figueres gave a well-deserved shout-out to the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance and called for enhanced ambition for a strong High Seas biodiversity treaty agreement this year.
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Kunming Calling – new dates set for biodiversity summit as plans forge ahead
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have announced the 11th-24th October 2021 as the new dates for the highly anticipated COP 15 in Kunming, China. With just months to go, preparations are gathering pace, most recently with a virtual, informal session to prepare for the 3rd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation in mid-March, one of a series of discussions aimed at maintaining momentum and advancing the development of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Significant concerns are being voiced about how/whether virtual or hybrid in-person/virtual international negotiations can get the job done this year. With some major issues on the table questions remain as to whether meetings should go ahead or be delayed yet again. Postponing the CBD COP to October hopefully gives it a better chance to be in-person, but will it allow enough time for all the preparatory meetings to take place? And what might extended lock-downs and cancelled flights mean for scheduled negotiations earlier in the year like the final session of negotiations for the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty in August?
More than a pretty plaice! Our Fish can help save our planet
Exciting new science on the colossal contribution that ending overfishing can make to overcoming global threats was showcased at the Our Fish Symposium on Delivering on Climate & Biodiversity Targets Through Better Fisheries Management held from 22nd-25th March. The 4-day Symposium focused on exploring how combating overfishing is critical for realizing the EU’s response to the biodiversity and climate emergency and highlighted Europe’s unique opportunity to play a leading role on the world stage in 2021. Ending with a ‘Fireside-chat with EU decision-makers’, the Symposium presented both the latest science and practical pathways to help the EU pave a way forward as they prepare for COP 26 in Glasgow and the Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15 in Kunming in October and November 2021.