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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
Days and weeks roll by and here we are locked in this coronavirus twilight zone and wondering how and when we will ever emerge. Separated from family, friends and colleagues, we are all feeling grief, frustration, powerlessness. The best antidote to this is to stay informed, not only about the health crisis but about the other challenges facing our communities and our planet, and maintain the pressure for change. That’s the service The Navigator is hoping to provide in these dark times.
This month we can’t avoid the all-consuming COVID-19 crisis but we can recall the healing power of nature and even throw in some penguins. And we can continue to RISE UP for the Ocean! 250 groups from around the world recognise the need for a wave of change for our blue world in just the past several months. If you’re an avid reader of The Navigator and have yet to add your organisation’s voice to the RISE UP community, dive in and add your voice.
Ocean Unite is also delighted to announce that Virginijus Sinkevičius, the current Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries at the European Commission, has become the newest member of the Ocean Unite Network. It is an honour to have Commissioner Sinkevičius on board and we look forward to working with him.
As you will see, while we might all be stowed away behind our desks, there’s still a lot of work going on. Keep safe and keep looking forward to a healthier future for ourselves, our Ocean and our Planet.
PS: We get amazing feedback every month from avid Navigator readers and want to make sure that it’s high quality content and global seaview continues. Donate now to Ocean Unite to keep it coming!
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
The climate emergency won’t wait
It may feel like the world is on hold but there is no pause button for climate change. The World Meteorological Organization has warned that 2019 was the second warmest year on record, ending with a global average temperature increase of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, and CO2 levels reached a new peak in January and February 2020. Although the economic paralysis caused by the coronavirus looks set to result in the largest ever annual fall in global emissions, warming trends already firmly in motion mean that experts believe 2020 has a 99.94% chance to rank among the 5 hottest years and a greater than 70% chance of setting a new heat record. It’s definitely looking that way. With global Ocean temperatures at the second highest ever recorded in March, the Southern Hemisphere is just emerging from a searingly hot summer. Australia is becoming a flash point of the global climate emergency, with the bushfire horror of a few months ago followed by heatwaves beneath the waves as the Great Barrier Reef is suffering its third mass coral bleaching episode in five years in March and April, triggered by the highest ever monthly sea temperatures. In a few months, the US and Caribbean will be staring down the barrel of an Atlantic hurricane season while still grappling COVID-19. With Gulf of Mexico waters running unusually warm, scientists are already sounding the alarm to be prepared for strong storms ahead.
Even in the grip of a global pandemic, we must not forget that “climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” reminded UNSG Antonio Guterres at the launch of the WMO report last month, where he also warned that “we are currently way off track to meet either the 1.5C or 2C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for.” Tackling climate change is also vital for ensuring a strong and sustainable economic recovery after the COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted. Stimulus packages should focus on renewable energy, nature based solutions, sustainable housing and agriculture, and green jobs for the future – because, what’s the alternative? A future with catastophic levels of extinction, including the disappearance of all the world’s coral reefs. No thanks! Today’s young people and the generations to follow deserve better.
Beat the blues with a dive into the virtual Ocean
With millions of us in lockdown at home for over a month now, a whole new way of life is emerging: zoom calls, webinars, online tutorials, online concerts, virtual parties and even science-ing from home. We are having to find creative new ways to connect with our co-workers and keep office culture alive while working remotely. For many it’s a chance to slow down and appreciate simple pleasures, like baking bread or just breathing cleaner-than-usual air. More seriously, COVID-19 has forced more than 1.5 billion children out of school, leaving parents, teachers, governments and organizations scrambling to limit the fall-out of the largest concurrent disruption to global education in history. But there are also lessons to be learned from this extraordinary time. Sir David Attenbourgh – otherwise known as the UK’s new online geography teacher – hopes that some of these new habits will stick, with people choosing to cut down unnecessary communting and travel in the future.
But even while we are stuck at home, the world – and the Ocean – can be our oyster. Everyone can celebrate their love for the Ocean by taking a virtual dive under the waves or exploring coral reefs via webcam. Give your kids’ Ocean education a boost with AXA XL’s excellent online programme that highlights the important role of the Ocean in our everyday lives or with the vast array of livecams on offer, you can get up close and personal with sharks, spy on gorillas, or find solace just watching the underwater world floating by.
Harnessing the power of nature on Biodiversity Day
The theme of this year’s International Biodiversity Day on 22nd May is “Our solutions are in nature”, emphasizing hope, solidarity and the importance of working together, and stressing the need to “Build Back Better”. It’s a chance to reflect on the message being sent by the global pandemic and signal a strong will for a global framework that will “bend the curve” on biodiversity loss for the benefit of all life on Earth. The close links between the biodiversity crisis and the coronavirus crisis are rising to the forefront of global debates, and the current pandemic may be just the tip of the iceberg: 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they originate with animals. Our destruction of habitats, vast illegal wildlife trade and humanity’s excessive intrusion into nature creates the conditions for these new viruses and diseases to proliferate. We know that just like a healthy human body is more resistent to disease, so a healthy marine ecosystem is more resilient to change – #Love30x30. Even world leaders still in the eye of the COVID-19 storm need to heed warnings about the power of nature to both harm and help us and seize this moment to take a different path that respects the natural world. Our leaders should apply the hard lessons of the coronavirus to the biodiversity crisis and create a nature-based planetary safety net for humanity.
This is the message of the Open Letter to Global Leaders coordinated by the Club of Rome and signed by hundreds of officials, scientists and citizens. It calls on heads of government to have the courage and foresight to make their economic recovery plans truly transformative by investing in people, rebuilding our relationship with nature, phasing out fossil fuels and securing a path to net zero emissions by 2050. This plea is echoed in a letter sent by an alliance of 180 European politicians, business leaders, MEPs and activists urging increased green investment to develop “a new model of prosperity” based on sustainability, biodiversity, and transforming the EU’s agri-food system.
This will be an International Biodiversity Day like no other. The world is at a crossroads: will we make bold changes leading to a healthier relationship with nature – like strongly protecting at least 30% of the land and sea by 2030 – or race blindly to get things back to how they were before? On 22nd May, we should all RISE UP and join the call to build back better, fairer and safer.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Come hell or high water – 8th June is World Oceans Day
Whatever else is happening, let’s make sure we give a big Navigator shout out to the Ocean on the 8th June. The theme of this year’s World Oceans Day is innovation for a sustainable Ocean, and along with the rest of the 30×30 movement we will be calling extra loud for the protection of 30% of the Ocean by 2030. Tune in next month for a wave of ideas and materials to help create an Ocean of noise and action.
Time to reel in a deal on fishing subsidies – no excuses!
2020 is the deadline for several of the SDG14 Ocean targets – including Goal 14.6 calling for the prohibition of harmful fishing subsidies. The arena for reaching an agreement to ban these subsidies are the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies, launched in 2001 and due to finally reach settlement in 2020. These subsidies talks have aquired the claim to fame of being the only active multilateral negotiations at WTO – and their successful conclusion is seen as a test of whether the beleaguered trade organization is still capable of fulfilling its mandate. However, it is far from plain sailing. Continued disagreements among governments meant the December 2019 deadline to reach an agreement was missed, leading to the Chair of the negotiations setting up a robust new workplan to get a deal before the June 2020 WTO ministerial in Kazakhstan. Now – you guessed it – the Ministerial Conference has been postponed, throwing yet another spanner in the works. The Chair is once again instigating damage control and trying to keep on track despite the COVID-19 disruptions, posting a video message to members of the group asking them to maintain momentum. Governments around the world spend more than US$22 billion on subsidies that contribute to overfishing and even IUU fishing. It’s unsustainable, unfair, and it’s time to stop. Given the state of the global economy and post-COVID-19 projections on the need for public investment that drives a zero carbon future, this makes more sense now than ever. After years of talks, the issues are all well known and an agreement can reached without physical face-to-face meetings. In March, 109 NGOs around the globe – including Ocean Unite – called on world leaders to urgently engage in discussions to reach an agreement before June. That demand still stands – no excuses!
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Postponements plague progress – but also give us the gift of time
The Navigator last month led with the postponements and cancelations scuppering the 2020 ‘Ocean Super Year’ and sadly this theme continues – as does the uncertainty over when these delayed events will take place. There are still no new dates for the UN Ocean Conference, the final session of the High Seas Treaty negotiations, or the hugely important Convention on Biological Diversity COP15. Meanwhile, the IUCN World Conservation Congress has been moved to January 2021, and UNFCCC has confirmed that COP26, scheduled in Glasgow in November, will also take place next year. Leading climate economist Nicholas Stern put governments on notice over this delay to the climate talks, saying: “There is an opportunity in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to create a new approach…that will be the challenge and opportunity of COP26 next year. We must use this time well.” That message applies to all the delayed events: to use the extra time to galvanize efforts, work out solutions and raise ambitions.
Priority pathway to 1st generation of High Seas MPAs
Negotiations for the new High Seas Treaty are facing postponment, but it is widely agreed that the deal must include effective mechanisms for creating MPAs in the High Seas. So where should these MPAs be? A new report proposes 10 sites that could create a 1st generation of MPAs and get us off to a flying start in safeguarding the High Seas. These priority marine biodiversity hotspots were selected using the findings of a new study by team of scientists that considers a variety of factors – including species richness, extinction risks, presence of seamounts and hydrothermal vents, habitat diversity, carbon absorption and contribution to the marine food web – to map the High Seas areas that should be protected in order to protect at least 30% of key Ocean biodiversity features. It’s yet more evidence that the creation of large MPAs in the High Seas is key to achieving the 30% Ocean protection goal recommended by scientists and must be included in the High Seas Treaty.
Earth Day – take a penguin’s-eye-view of Antarctic protection
Celebrating the Earth from home was the order of the day for the landmark 50th Earth Day on 22nd April. Mass plans for the day to see the biggest ever mobilization of citizens calling to protect our planet had to shift to digital and virtual platforms, but that didn’t stop people from expressing their love and concerns for our ultimate home, the Earth. One of our planet’s most lovable residents were celebrated the same week: 25th April was World Penguin Day. It’s famously been said that “One can’t be angry when one looks at a Penguin” – and World Penguin Day is the perfect opportunity to share pictures and videos of our flippered friends (here’s one, and another) – but it’s hard not to be angry about the impacts that global heating and industrial fishing are having on penguins’ home in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
That’s why Antarctica2020 is busy ramping up the pressure for expanding the protection of the Southern Ocean to cover 7 million km2 – with the goal of getting all 26 members of CCAMLR to agree to three new large marine protected areas (MPAs) when they meet (hopefully) later this year. The group’s newest members, Philippe and Ashlan Cousteau, dived straight into the campaign with two messages, inspired by Philippe’s grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s vogage and work to protect Antarctica over 40 years ago. The first message released on Earth Day is aimed squarely at EU leaders – particularly in France and Germany – who are uniquely placed to get China and Russia on board and drive home these long-awaited MPA agreements. The second is a letter to President Vladimir Putin, congratulating Russia on the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors in 1820, and calling for Russia to now lead in its protection by supporting the MPAs at CCAMLR. After years of frustration, everything is in place to secure historic protection of vast areas of the Southern Ocean vital to the health of our whole blue planet. Even the the penguins are helping guide the way. All we need is the leadership and vision to seize this historic opportunity and mark 2020 with the greatest ever feat of environmental protection.
Fighting the dark underworld of IUU fishing in tough times
Working on the frontline of the fight against IUU fishing can be a dangerous business, a fact tragically hammered home by the suspected murder of a Kiribati fishery observer in the South Pacific. Sadly, this is far from first case of an observer dying under suspicious circumstances. The Association of Professional Observers has documented the death or disappearance of one to two observers every year since 2015 – but it’s especially shocking that this observer was onboard a MSC registered vessel fishing in the WCPFC area. It’s a case that should remind everyone that IUU fishing is a serious transnational crime and stronger measures need to be taken to protect the safety of those who monitor it. This monitoring must continue – even during the COVID-19 crisis.
To that end, a letter jointly submitted by 19 organizations voiced concern that, in taking steps to protect human safety in light of the pandemic, there have been movements to relax or even suspend important monitoring, control and surveillance measures for commercial fisheries. The letter follows the waiver of requirements in regions of the US, Canada, and by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. While recognizing the unprecendented challenges posed by the pandemic, the 19 organizations urge fishery managers and RFMOs to take a suite of practical actions, including the increased use of alternative and electronic methods for collecting and sharing data, to ensure compliance with monitoring measures, even in the absence of human observers and inspectors. They also caution against any actions to make the suspension of observers and other monitoring permanent. According to a recent study, IUU fishing is responsible for the economic loss of between US$26-50 billion per year when you take into account the value of the fish, wages, loss of trade and tax revenue. This is threatening food security, livelihoods and vital fish stocks. It is also – as the awful case in Kiribati confirms – a magnet for human rights abuses, people trafficking and other deadly crimes. The whole world, even albatrosses, must remain steadfast in its fight to stop it.