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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
8th March is International Women’s Day – this year under the theme #BalanceForBetter. All over the world, women are working for and in the Ocean, but their contribution is too often overlooked and undervalued. Half the work force in the seafood industry are women, but many are in low-paid, seasonal jobs without health, safety and labor rights protection. Under-representation of women in key roles in government, law, business and science means they’re often excluded from policy-making decisions, reducing the chance of addressing and resolving the challenges women and their families face. A better gender balance will generate waves of progress that benefit family nutrition, food security and the Ocean itself.
Female policy-makers, businesswomen, community leaders, scientists, surfers, sailors, divers and many more are striving in their different fields to save our Ocean and make lives better for all people working in Ocean-based industries. You can find out more about women working for the Ocean and how you can help #BalanceForBetter at Women4Oceans. Happy International Women’s Day! We hope The Navigator inspires you and helps you keep abreast of the latest Ocean of opportunities for saving our seas and all who live in and near them.
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
Mining the deep – promise or peril?
The annual International Seabed Authority (ISA) meeting (Part 1) is running from 25th February to 1st March at the ISA headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica. This is a critical time for the organization charged with the complex task of agreeing, by 2020, regulations that allow seabed mining on “behalf of mankind as a whole” (note International Women’s Day, above). ISA has already handed out 29 licenses to explore for deep-sea minerals, covering 1.5 million km2 of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. But there’s a lot more than business opportunities at stake.
While mining companies see the promise of vast underwater reserves of cobalt, copper, nickel and manganese, scientists are warning of the potential perils for the rich deep-sea life and habitats that we are only just beginning to discover. In 2018, 50 NGOs signed a submission to ISA questioning whether deep-sea mining can ever be compatible with obligations to protect and sustainably manage the Ocean. Since then, more scientists have warned that the resulting biodiversity loss could be unavoidable, long-lasting and, in many cases, permanent. These concerns are gaining political support. The European Parliament overwhelming voted for a resolution calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining until the risks to the environment are fully understood, a sentiment that’s been echoed by the UN Ocean Envoy, Peter Thomson. It’s vital that the nations coming together at ISA do not open the door to deep-sea mining until all the risks are known. This is our planet’s last frontier – we must protect it! For more insight, listen to the BBC radio podcast “Can the oceans survive the next phase of mineral extraction?”.
Climate-Ocean action in Brussels
Over 30 countries and many other interested parties have already signed the Brussels Declaration on ‘The Ocean and Climate Change’, launched at the high-level Climate Change & Oceans Preservation Conference hosted by Belgium on 19th February. The Declaration calls on all UNFCCC Parties to engage in initiatives such as the Oceans Pathway Partnership and Because the Ocean, and to consider practical pathways to resilience to be identified in the IPCC Special Report ‘The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’due in September 2019. The Declaration also calls on states to be ambitious leaders on climate change in the shipping sector to help meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner in charge of maritime affairs, helped inspire this strong statement with a speech praising thousands of school children from all over Europe and beyond who took to the cold winter streets to cry out for action on climate change. He highlighted the courage of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who over the last few months has transformed from Swedish schoolgirl to the voice of a newly invigorated youth climate movement. Commissioner Vella told leaders gathered in Brussels: “I do not want to tell my grandchildren that we lacked courage, or ambition, or a sense of urgency. I do not want to say that we had all the science and facts at our fingertips, but refused to heed the warnings… There’s no Ocean B, just as there’s no Planet B.” We at The Navigator couldn’t agree more!
Tracking the High Seas Treaty
Time to get tracking! The 2nd Intergovernmental Conference (IGC2), tasked with agreeing the text of the new treaty to protect biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the notorious BBNJ), gets underway on 25th March. The High Seas Alliance (HSA) Treaty Tracker is live for IGC2 and is the ideal place to follow all the news as it happens – it’s the next best thing to being there for those of us who can’t make it to New York. The Treaty Tracker allows all ocean stakeholders to follow the BBNJ negotiations day by day, decision by decision, helping to increase the transparency and accessibility of discussions that we all have a stake in.
As a global commons, the high seas belong to everyone. The HSA is committed to making sure as many people as possible engage in the treaty debates and that they result in robust protection for the biodiversity of half our planet. The deadline for finalizing the High Seas Treaty is 2020 – use the Treaty Tracker to make sure your government is on the right side of Ocean protection history.
Meanwhile, you can vote here for which creature will represent the importance of high seas biodiversity at the UN. Depending on the outcome, the HSA will take crocheted albatross, anglerfish or silky sharks into the negotiations to help plead their cause!
Optimizing Ocean collaboration
The goal of the 6th World Ocean Summit (WOS) (Abu Dhabi, 5th–7th March) is to build stronger collaboration across regions and connect the world to new ideas and perspectives. Taking place in the Middle East for the first time – a region often overlooked in Ocean discussions – the WOS will bring together political leaders, heads of global business, scientists, NGOs and multilaterals from across the globe to ask what new thinking can contribute to the sustainable development of the ocean? How can this new information be shared globally? How can collaboration between countries and regions be optimized? Among the speakers will be HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, President Taneti Mamau of Kiribati, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala. Tune in to the next issue of The Navigator for a report on the Summit.
Something fishy in the state of Brexit
Amidst the cacophony and confusion of Brexit, many questions about the future of UK and European fisheries relations remain unanswered. It’s vital that hard-fought protections are not allowed to slip through the net as debates over a potential disorderly, delayed or dreaded “no-deal” Brexit rage on. But, with Brexit looming just weeks away, the UK looks poised to weaken fisheries policy – despite repeated assurances that leaving the EU would not mean dropping UK environmental standards. A draft bill put forward by the government in January revealed that the UK is on course to ditch the landmark EU legal commitment to end overfishing by 2020. Looks like industry pressure has led to a dilution of ambitions outlined in the government’s own fisheries White Paper. What happened to the promise of a ‘Green Brexit’?
Britain exports the majority of its catch, and UK fishers are worried that border delays will threaten their trade in high-value species like lobster and scallops, currently often sold live to restaurants in France and Spain. Will these delays mean most UK-caught fish need to be frozen, thus reducing their value, and will the end of freedom of movement lead to staff shortages in the industry? Does this all spell a rotten future for British fishers? The EU has taken steps to protect the interests of its fishing communities in the event of a “disorderly withdrawal” on 29th March. At the time of writing, uncertainty reigns over these and many other Brexit questions…
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Bearing witness in the Arctic
The ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ International Arctic Forum 2019takes place in St Petersburg, Russia, on the 9th & 10th April. This will be the 6th Arctic Forum since the event was launched in 2010, and is the largest forum for discussing prospects for the development of the Arctic region. The theme for 2019 is ‘The Arctic. An Ocean of Opportunities’. The forum will take place against a backdrop of unprecedented warming in the Arctic region and record ocean temperatures contributing to accelerated melting of polar sea ice.
The standard bearer for the warming of the world’s great north is the polar bear. As the ice melts, polar bears’ traditional hunting grounds are vanishing and they are forced to venture into enemy territory – human villages! Russia’s Novaya Zemlya archipelago declared a state of emergency when dozens of polar bears began invading residential areas, even entering apartment buildings in their hunt for food. Residents are understandably frightened, but scientists were quick to point out that the polar bears are themselves victims of the accelerating climate change that is set to make human-wildlife conflicts like this more frequent.
With the Arctic warming between 2 and 3 times as fast as the rest of the planet, the fate of all inhabitants of the region – whether 2-legged, 4-legged or finned – is uncertain. A new 5-year study into ‘black carbon’ – the soot responsible for as much as a quarter of Arctic warming – shows that most of it comes from fossil fuel sources like coal power plants, cars, and heavy fuel oil in shipping, not from biofuels and wildfires as previously thought. Even more evidence that we need to urgently and drastically cut these polluting fuels.
Countdown to the HFO Ban
Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is a dirty, polluting fossil fuel that accounts for 80% of marine fuel used worldwide. Already banned in Antarctica, HFO is a major threat to the fragile Arctic environment, due to the risk of oil spills and its contribution to warming temperatures and melting polar ice. This poses a clear and growing danger as the numbers of HFO-powered ships operating in the Arctic increased by 35% between 2015 and 2017. Luckily, governments and world bodies like the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are moving steadily towards an Arctic HFO Ban, scheduled to be adopted in 2021.
On 22nd February, a meeting of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) finalized a methodology for assessing the impact of a HFO ban on Arctic ecosystems and indigenous local communities and economies, and began to define what types of fuel will be banned and how. It may not sound thrilling, but this represents a key step towards making the ban a reality and was hailed as welcome progress by the Clean Arctic Alliance while also stressing the need for major Arctic nations Russia and Canada to step-up and add their official support to the HFO ban.
Protecting the Arctic from HFO pollution is particularly vital for indigenous communities. More than 50% of the Inuit diet comes from the land and sea and would be put at serious risk by an HFO spill. The Vice-President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada told the IMO meeting that Inuit regions are supportive of a phase out of HFO “in order to minimize impacts on marine mammals and fish and to prevent disruption of seasonal hunting.” But there’s a long way to go before the ban is adopted, let alone enforced. Catch up with this handy infographic The Story So Far, and keep an eye out for future updates on the ban in The Navigator.
Gearing up for the G7 & G20
France is hosting the 2019 G7, and has put the Ocean and climate firmly on the table. The overarching goal of the Biarritz G7 is to allow everyone to have the same opportunities in life regardless of background, gender or where they live, and ensure global stability and peace. One objective is “reducing environmental inequality by protecting our planet through climate finance and a fair ecological transition, preserving biodiversity and the oceans”. The G7 Summit is not until August, but the Environment Ministerial meeting is on 5th & 6th May. The Navigator looks forward to France advancing solutions on climate, biodiversity and ocean challenges. Vive l’océan!
Japan is also pushing for ocean protection at the 2019 G20 Summit in Osaka on 28th & 29th June. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted, “We will exert strong leadership in discussions aimed toward resolving global issues such as climate change and ocean plastic waste.” In advance of the G20, on 6th March, the Science Council of Japan will host S20 Japan 2019 in Tokyo. This is the first time Science20 (S20) – created in 2017 to provide science-based recommendations for the G20 Summit – will be held in Asia, and it plans to release a joint statement on ‘Threats to Marine Ecosystems and Conservation of the Marine Environment – with Special Attention to Climate Change and Marine Plastic Waste.’ Let’s hope it leads to a revitalization of the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter launched in 2017.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Landing the blame on EU
It’s actually more of a case of what’s not been happening, according to a report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), which declared that the EU is seriously underachieving on efforts to stop overfishing. The ‘Landing the Blame’ report revealed that EU member states are set to fish as much as 312,000 tonnes above scientific recommendations in 2019. Sweden topped NEF’s annual overfishing shame list by fishing 52.4% above the northeast Atlantic quota established by scientific bodies, followed by the UK and Ireland in 2nd and 3rd worst place. Shame on EU! These countries need to seriously buck up and deliver on their promises.
Exchange of ideas on Ocean and climate
The inaugural Vanity Fair Climate Exchange took place in London on 11th & 12th December 2018, closing a “febrile year of environmental advance, tumult, hope and despair.” The high-profile Ocean event saw the New York Times investigative reporter Ian Urbina lead a discussion with Tiffany & Co. Foundation President Anisa Kamadoli Costa and Global Fishing Watch CEO Tony Long on how to ensure ocean ecosystems survive and thrive in the age of climate change. Watch their lively debate here. Participants were confronted with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s installation, Ice Watch – 6 enormous hulks of melting glacial ice from the waters surrounding Greenland – and warned about the deepening chasm between politics and environmental science: a dangerous trend with experts proclaiming we have just 12 years to act to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
New IUU Fishing Index
A new initiative for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and Poseidon, the IUU Fishing Index will rank countries in terms of their vulnerability, prevalence, and response to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Its creators say “it fills a key gap by analyzing and evaluating, state by state, the global implications of unregulated fishing, thereby helping policymakers identify where interventions are most needed.” In the first ranking, Belgium came out top with the best score for all indicators combined, while China fared worst and Asia was ranked bottom for regions. The index findings are a stark warning sign that we are not on track to meet SDG target 14.4 to end IUU fishing by 2020. States need to come together and use every tool in their arsenal to crack down on illegal fishing.