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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
June begins with World Oceans Day (WOD) and – at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere – ends with the summer holiday season sliding into view. So, it’s vital that our keen WOD awareness doesn’t ebb away, especially if we are lucky enough to have a seaside vacation planned. We all need to keep our Ocean footprint at the forefront of our minds and make sure our holidays have a positive impact. Escalating, irresponsible tourism is playing a big part in destroying Ocean ecosystems. What can we do? Small changes can make a big difference. Did you know that every year 14,000 tonnes of toxic sunscreen finds its way into the sea? Choosing biodegradable, mineral-based alternatives that don’t damage coral reefs and other vulnerable habitats are a great place to start. Many destinations are encouraging visitors to shift their behavior. In 2017, Palau and New Zealand launched bold campaigns requesting tourists to sign an eco-pledge when visiting their countries and act in ways that respect the local culture and protect nature. Beachgoers around the globe are being asked to take their litter home with them rather than leaving beaches strewn with plastic and other trash. Considering that plastic now makes up 95% of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and lying on its beaches – and rises by 40% in the summer due to the influx of holiday-makers – these simple steps can make a massive difference to our Ocean and the life within it. Happy Ocean-friendly holidays everyone!
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
G20 – Landmark plastics deal and need for net zero by 2050 commitment
he G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth was held in Karuizawa, Nagano on 15th–16th June, in advance of the G20 Leaders’ Summit at the end of the month. One of the key goals of Japan’s first G20 is to accelerate “a virtuous cycle of environment and growth” and create a paradigm shift which promotes business-led innovation. Climate change, marine plastic and energy innovations were all on the agenda at the ministerial gathering. In one breakthrough, Environment Ministers agreed to adopt a landmark deal for reducing the plastic waste polluting the Ocean, including strategies designed to assist developing countries. The “G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter” is the first agreement on this issue involving not only rich nations but also emerging and developing economies. Adopting a comprehensive life-cycle approach, each country committed to undertake voluntary measures and report on their progress.
Greenpeace Japan described the deal as “the first step towards resolving the issue … But given the critical situation of Ocean pollution with plastics, it is urgently necessary to set up legally binding action plans with clear timelines and goals.” Countries remain divided on establishing a binding international treaty to ban single-use plastics, though many are introducing laws and strategies at the national and regional level. Japan announced at the ministerial meeting that it aims to introduce a charge for disposable plastic shopping bags by as early as April 2020.
The meeting of environment and energy ministers representing 85% of global GDP was also a chance to strengthen bilateral cooperation, with the EU and Japan issuing a joint statement promising leadership on innovation for clean energy transition and climate action in line with the Paris Agreement and breakthrough innovation. While this is a step in the right direction, given the extent of the climate crisis, we need much more concrete commitments. G20 leaders meeting at the end of June should commit to net zero emissions by 2050, in line with what the science is recommending to ensure we get the world on course to a healthier future. A number of countries have already signed onto this goal, and others are considering it. It is technically and economically feasible to achieve – we just need the political will to do so. G20 – show your leadership!
Antarctic Treaty meeting – 60th Anniversary Czech-up
In 2019, we are celebrating 60 years of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed by 12 countries on 1 December 1959, in a remarkable feat of global diplomacy and cooperation in the otherwise dark days of the Cold War. For six decades, the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) has helped ensure peace and devoted the South Pole to science, but now – with progress to establish MPAs in the Southern Ocean frozen for the past few years by a couple of obstructive votes at CCAMLR and new threats and national ambitions on the rise – the world needs to do more than merely maintain the status quo. Delegates will be considering the 60th anniversary – as well as accelerating challenges from global heating and industrial fishing – as they gather for the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting taking place in Prague from 1st–11th July. For those of you that parler Français, check out this French op-ed by Antarctica2020 champions Pascal Lamy and Geneviève Pons on the role of France in ensuring further Antarctic marine protection.
Environmental protection is prominent on the Treaty meeting’s agenda. Topics on the table include ‘Climate Change Implications for the Environment’ and ‘Marine Spatial Protection and Management’, both absolutely vital considering NASA’s recent finding that there was a six-fold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, and rising temperatures and ice loss threatening the entire Southern Ocean food web, from krill to blue whales. Also on people’s minds in Prague will be China’s recent stepping up of its Antarctic activities and presence, including building 5 research stations and a permanent airport. China is also a key party when it comes to CCAMLR – where it is hoped China will reverse its position and cast its vote for the expansion of marine protection when the commission meets in October. Let’s hope the meeting in Prague sets the stage for stronger joint action on global heating and Ocean protection in time for another Antarctic anniversary in 2020 – 200 years since the first discovery of the continent in 1820. The next few months will show whether Southern Ocean protection has just been temporarily put on ice – or is truly on the rocks.
Seabed mining code talks: no extraction without protection
With just a year to go before its deadline to finalize regulations on seabed mining, the International Seabed Authority is under pressure to make real progress on its “Mining Code” at its Council and Assembly meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, on 15th–26th July. The meeting will focus on the draft exploitation regulations that were released in March, at a meeting which sparked deep concerns at NGO alliance, the DSCC. Over the last 10 years, ISA has issued 29 contracts for exploration, involving 22 different countries, covering 0.7% of the world’s seabed, and has pledged to adopt global rules on the exploitation of the international seabed by 2020. Though the ISA President recently stated that meeting this deadline is possible if there is the political will, many believe that it’s highly unlikely. Previous meetings have been characterized by a “hurry up and wait” attitude, but mining companies are not sitting idle. The race towards mining’s latest frontier is heating up. Canadian company Deep Green recently announced its plans to start shipping valuable metals derived from nodules gathered from the floor of the Pacific to manufacturers by 2025 and is investing $200 million to make that happen. DSCC is worried that a rush at ISA to finalize regulations by 2020 could result in a continued lack of transparency and a code that fails to protect the deep sea. Scientists worry whether the over-exploitation of the deep Ocean can be averted as science continues to be outpaced by the mining companies.
A new study showing that the impacts of deep-sea mining can last for decades is adding further fuel to these fears. Given the recent IPBES Report on the biodiversity crisis and our extreme lack of knowledge on deep-sea ecosystems, it would seem that discussions in July should move away from the “extraction of course” approach to embrace the urgent need for precaution and protection.
All change at the EU – but new agenda fails to dazzle us with detail
The EU is choosing a new European Commission President and setting out its strategic priorities. Sounds like an ideal opportunity for decisive leadership on the environment – including the Ocean. That would be the rational response to recent devastating reports on biodiversity loss and global heating, and would prove that leaders are listening to the voices of EU citizens – e.g. the thousands of young people calling for action on the climate emergency and the voters who just elected a record number of Green MEPs to the European Parliament. And that’s the strong message enshrined in a letter to European leaders signed by some of the leading voices in Ocean science and conservation.
Initiated by The Nature Conservancy and Ocean Unite as well as other partners, the letter calls for the new EU priorities to highlight the protection of the Ocean as a critical component in the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change, and as necessary to transform the sustainability of the EU’s economy. In its New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, released on 20 June, the EU names “building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe” as one of its 4 priorities and pledges that “we will lead efforts to fight the loss of biodiversity and preserve environmental systems, including oceans”. But not everyone is impressed by the vague wording and absence of clear targets. Following earlier criticism that the draft strategy lacked urgency and was little more than a collection of “buzzwords”, environmental groups reacted with dismay when the new agenda failed to deliver an EU climate neutral target for 2050 – despite this goal being supported by 24 out of 28 member countries. WWF declared that opposition from just 4 countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland – meant “the EU has dealt itself a devastating blow in terms of its climate leadership.” But it is not the end of the road. The coming months offer many opportunities for the new EU Commission and the Finnish EU Presidency to up their game, including by issuing a strong updated climate pledge and Ocean commitments at UNFCCC COP25 – the “Blue COP”– in Chile in December, where the Ocean-climate connection will finally be front and center.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
G7 summit – France putting on the Biarritz but Canada still going strong
France is hosting the 2019 G7 Leaders Summit in Biarritz on 24th–26th August, and President Macron is highlighting “reducing environmental inequality by protecting our planet through climate finance and a fair ecological transition, preserving biodiversity and the oceans” as one of the top 5 priorities. As we reported in the last issue of The Navigator, in May the G7 Environment Ministers committed to fight biodiversity loss and tackle climate inequalities at their meeting in Metz. But, in recent weeks, it’s last year’s host – Canada – that’s been getting more headlines. After spearheading the launch of the Ocean Plastics Charter at the 2018 G7 in Charlevoix, the Canadian government has brought the fight home: Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna marked World Oceans Day by announcing Canada’s plan to ban single-use plastics as of 2021. This is great news for the Ocean, as Canadians throw away more than 34 million plastic bags every single day! The government will research which items will be included in the ban – likely to include bags, straws and cutlery – and intends to follow the model adopted by the EU, which voted in March to ban plastic items where market alternatives exist. Trudeau also stressed that companies manufacturing or selling plastic products must take more responsibility for recycling the waste they generate, so hopefully we consumers will not be taking on the task alone.
Canada also passed a new Fisheries Act requiring rebuilding plans for depleted fish populations, and outlawed the sale or trade in shark products, and has significantly upped its game on MPAs. Sir Richard Branson and Minister McKenna sat down earlier this month to discuss some of these issues on the radio, and you can listen in here. The Navigator will be watching over the next couple of months to see what initiatives the French G7 leadership will produce, before they hand over to the United States for 2020.
High Seas Treaty negotiations have big gaps to fill
Just two negotiating sessions remain on the tight schedule to finalize the new High Seas Treaty by 2020. The next one is set for 19th–30th August in New York, and governments have their work cut out for them to reach agreement on key issues, like how the treaty will work with regional fisheries management organizations, the International Maritime Organization and the International Seabed Authority to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of species in high seas. But failure is not an option: agreeing a strong, binding High Seas Treaty is essential for protecting Earth’s great wilderness, fighting climate change and reversing the catastrophic loss of biodiversity facing our planet. Experts are also calling for the Treaty to include measures to control high seas fishing, to protect the food security and livelihoods of coastal people, something which has not so far been a focus of the treaty talks.
Since the 1950s, catches from the high seas have increased 400%, with ships from just 10 wealthy nations, including Japan, Korea and Spain, taking more than 70% of the fish from these waters. The High Seas Treaty will fill a huge gap in the existing legal framework that UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres recently dubbed the “the constitution for our oceans” and help fulfil his pledge: “Let us be the generation that reverses the cycle of continuous decline in our oceans and ensures their conservation and sustainable use, for the benefit of current and future generations.” Tune into the High Seas Treaty Tracker in August, and look out for the return flight of our feathered friend, the Albatross.
Sri Lanka’s CITES CoP moved to Geneva
The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP18), originally planned to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka at the end of May but postponed due to the horrific bombings on Easter Sunday, will now take place in Geneva from 17th–28th August. This is a huge disappointment for the Sri Lankan government and venues that had already gone to enormous efforts to plan this high-level event, but a joint decision was taken based on security concerns and the need to move forward with the important task of debating and agreeing on 57 species-listing proposals. CoP18 promises a major leap forward for shark protection, with dozens of governments co-sponsoring proposals to list shortfin and longfin mako sharks, 10 species of wedgefish and 6 species of guitarfish under CITES Appendix II. If these listings are agreed, international trade in these species will only be permitted if it does not harm them in the wild. With its capacity to impose trade sanctions, CITES has earned a reputation as an environmental instrument able to pack a punch. We’ll certainly have our sights set on sharks in August.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Port State Progress: end in sight in IUU fishing battle?
The Second Meeting of the Parties to the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) in Viña del Mar, Chile, concluded on 6th June with Parties agreeing on a clear way forward regarding the rules under which future meetings will be conducted, a new funding mechanism to help developing States implement the Agreement, and a mechanism to review and assess the effectiveness of the Agreement. There is still a long way to go in the long battle to enforce the standard measures outlined in the first binding international agreement that specifically targets IUU fishing, but this positive outcome is the latest in a series of successive victories that we can dare to dream are signs the global community will one day declare victory over IUU fishing. A new study, Any Port in a Storm, shows that, in most cases, high-income countries with low perceived corruption face a lower risk of IUU-caught fish passing through their ports, and that tackling issues that are not strictly fisheries-related can improve a State’s ability to reduce its IUU risk.
Time for 30x30 Vision: launch of Ocean Unite – Virgin Voyages partnership
It’s time to supercharge our actions to protect and regenerate the Ocean! That was the World Oceans Day rallying cry from Richard Branson and is the motivation behind an exciting new partnership between Ocean Unite and one of the Virgin family’s latest additions, Virgin Voyages, aimed at pushing for protecting 30% of the Ocean by 2030: 30×30 Vision. The collaboration follows hot on the heels of the launch of Virgin Voyages, the up-and-coming cruise line which will educate passengers on Ocean conservation. Voyages vows to be one of the cleanest and most sustainable cruise line fleets in the world – shunning single-use plastic, maximizing energy and water efficiency and offering reef-safe sunscreen – to embody the “blue voyage” pathway pioneered by Ocean Unite. The ambition is to push the boundaries of sustainable travel and tourism so that people can experience the beauty and bounty of the seas while contributing to their protection.
World Oceans Day: Make women part of the Ocean solution
On 8 June, events were held all over the world and thousands of people posted photos and news about their Ocean actions. This year, gender and Ocean was a key theme and one group of influential leaders seized the moment to drive home a vital truth: if you want to save the Ocean, make women part of the solution. A statement signed by members of the Council of Women World Leaders, the Friends of Ocean Action and others, stressed that there is still harmful segregation of work and pay by gender, with women too often denied a voice in management and decision-making. This is a mistake that needs to be urgently rectified as investing in the equal participation of women and girls has positive ripple effects across whole communities and drives progress further and faster. The challenges facing the Ocean are not gender-blind or gender-neutral; this statement calls for proactive steps to empower and engage women across all Ocean-related actions.