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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
Happy Earth Day week! April was an exciting month for the 30×30 campaign. A new report published by Greenpeace in collaboration with leading UK academics shows that it’s entirely possible to design and create a robust, planet-wide network of Ocean sanctuaries protecting 30% of the Ocean. A number of countries and regions are also leading the charge for supercharging Ocean protection. It is all very encouraging, but there is still a long way to go to 30×30. While there’s been a 25% increase in MPAs in the last 15 years, UNEP believes at least 40% of them have major deficiencies or are mere ‘paper parks’. The 30×30 call is also part of the emerging call for a Global Deal for Nature, which protects half the Earth to both regenerate biodiversity and combat climate change. As this jam-packed edition of The Navigator shows, there is much work to do: we also need to beware of plans for Arctic drilling, keep up the pressure on fisheries subsidies talks at the World Trade Organization and shipping talks at the International Maritime Organization, and promote a better gender balance in all Ocean-based industries and activities. Read on to find out more!
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
BREAKING OCEAN NEWS: Canada prohibits industrial activities in marine protected areas
On April 25th, as part of the Nature Champions Summit held in Montreal, Canada announced further progress on marine protection. Canada will prohibit oil and gas activity, mining, dumping and bottom trawling in all new marine protected areas and will review existing protected areas to revise regulations on an ongoing basis to ensure that the prohibitions are applied equally. This marks a significant milestone in improving Canada’s commitment to marine protection. Canada will ensure that no areas where oil and gas activity takes place will count towards international targets. Currently, “marine refuges” make up 4.48 per cent of protections towards meeting the 10% target by 2020. Canada also announced the formal designation of the Laurentian Channel as an MPA. At 11,580 square kilometers, this is Atlantic Canada’s largest marine protected area and brings Canada to 8.27% protection of its marine and coastal environment. And we hear there is more to come in June … watch this space!
Time for political backing for 30x30 ocean protection
Greenpeace’s new report – 30×30: A Blueprint For Ocean Protection – is one of the largest ever studies of its kind. Researchers broke down areas classed as international waters into 25,000 100 km x 100 km squares, and mapped out a network of sanctuaries required to protect the world’s Ocean, safeguard wildlife and fight climate breakdown. This incredible study made waves at the recent High Seas Treaty negotiations in New York, and helped delegates finally see what could be achieved once they agree a treaty that allows MPAs to be created in the high seas. To promote the treaty, Greenpeace is launching one of its biggest ever expeditions, travelling from the Arctic to the Antarctic, visiting some of the areas identified as in need of protection by its groundbreaking study.
Now we know what a planet-wide network of Ocean sanctuaries, free from harmful human activity, could look like, it’s time for the political commitment needed to make that our reality. And it is coming, slowly but surely, with some countries and regions leading the charge. At the beginning of the month Belize approved the expansion of no-take zones that will increase the total area of its protected waters from 4.5% to 11.6%, including important habitats for threatened species. French Polynesia’s government has also agreed to create a 430,000 km2 MPA that would prohibit industrial fishing and other large-scale extraction but allow artisanal fishing in its beautiful, coral and biodiversity-rich waters. Latin America’s ‘Southern Cone’ is becoming a regional leader in the field, with Argentina, Chile and Uruguay stepping up the protection of millions of km2 of Ocean. And global organizations are getting in on the action. The Nature Conservancy just launched a US$40 million Blue Bonds scheme for marine protection that hopes to help protect 2.4 million km2 of Ocean. Couple these with the call for a New Global Deal for Nature that links the importance of protecting and regenerating nature to address both the climate and biodiversity crises, and the global push to invest in nature on land and at sea as the most logical and cost-effective way to curb and remove CO2 and protect biodiversity is one we can all get behind.
Shipping forecast: cut speed to cut emissions
The key summit on shipping’s climate impact this year is MEPC74, happening 13th-17th May at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London. The landmark Initial Strategy on Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), which was agreed by countries at IMO last April, set goals to peak emissions as soon as possible, reduce shipping’s carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2030, and to cut absolute GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. But, as The Navigator reported at the time, though this might sound impressive, it’s much lower than the 70–100% reduction by 2050 that a coalition of high-ambition nations, led by small Pacific Island states, had pushed for. The shipping industry is one of the biggest contributors to pollution and carbon emissions on the planet. Maritime shipping consumes 4.4M barrels of oil per day – that’s 10% of the oil consumption of the entire transportation sector. What’s more, a horrifying 2016 study estimated that unless tough new limits on sulphur in fuel oil are implemented, over 570,000 premature deaths will be linked to air pollution from ships between 2020 and 2025. So, there is a lot at stake, and while the 2018 agreement is not perfect, it’s a vital step in the right direction.
Now, countries have to agree effective short-term measures to start achieving the agreed emissions cuts. The main options on the table at MEPC74 are France’s speed limits proposal and Japan and Denmark’s proposals for tougher operational efficiency standards. Reducing the speed of the global shipping industry to cut CO2 would have the co-benefits for whales and dolphins of reduced underwater noise and fewer collisions with ships causing injury and death to whales, so helping endangered populations recover. However, as awareness of shipping sector policy is low, we need all hands on deck! Get involved and urge your country’s transport ministry to support speed limits for shipping at IMO this May.
Time to take stock: World Tuna Day and International Biodiversity Day
Not every fish gets its own UN day, so the fact that 2nd May is World Tuna Day reflects the huge importance of tuna and tuna-like species to sustainable development, food security and livelihoods of people around the world. More hooks and nets are set for tuna than for any other fish. They account for 20% of the value of all marine capture fisheries and are the cornerstone of countless coastal and island communities. But, while there’s been progress in some areas, many tuna species remain under threat from excessive and illegal fishing.
Distribution ranges of tuna are also shifting poleward due to climate change. Last year, scientists released the shocking news that the Atlantic bigeye population is 60 times more likely to collapse than to recover within 15 years. Unless catch levels are sharply reduced, stocks of this fast-swimming predator – the backbone of a billion-dollar industry – will crash. And yet, despite this stark warning, ICCAT failed to adopt a recovery plan for Atlantic bigeye at its 2018 annual meeting – a dereliction of duty described as ‘disappointing’ and ‘deplorable’ by NGOs. Saving bigeye tuna stocks is now a global emergency. ICCAT must start a rapid transition to science-based harvest strategies to put bigeye on the path to sustainability. This will take hard work and tough negotiations – which must start now. But let’s also mark World Tuna Day with some good news: southern bluefin tuna is swimming back from the brink of extinction! Thanks to the Australian-funded Tuna Champions program, IUCN has upgraded the species from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘recovering’. Proof that when it comes to saving tuna – yes we can!
The theme for this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity on 22nd May is ‘Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health’ and the Ocean has a lead role to play. Conserving marine biodiversity is key to food security and wellbeing for millions of people, and the fact that marine ecosystems are facing startling biodiversity loss is a threat to the entire 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. 400 marine species are critically endangered, 20% of coral reefs are gone, 50% of mangrove cover and 30% of seagrass habitats have disappeared, so it is well past time to get serious about protecting Ocean life – and the Convention on Biological Diversity can be a powerful tool. Next year, the 196 CBD member states will gather in Kunming for a landmark meeting to assess the success (or otherwise) of the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and to set the agenda for the next decade. We’re just about on track to meet the Aichi and SDG14 10% marine protection target, but that’s just the beginning. New reports show that MPAs not only replenish target fish populations, but also restore ecological functioning. The future CBD agenda must include far more ambitious Ocean protection goals and strategies that move us towards the 30×30 target. Ocean health, climate resilience and the future of our food supply depend on it.
Ocean and ice on the agenda at IPCC 49
The 49th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 49) is meeting in Kyoto from 8th-12th May. Following the release of its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C at its last session, the panel will focus on advancing climate science in key areas – including the preparation of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (lovingly known as SROCC), due to be published on 25th September. Over 100 experts met in Kazan in early March for SROCC’s 4th lead author meeting to discuss the 2nd Order Draft that has been circulated to experts and governments. And the group certainly had its work cut out for it as IPCC received 16,142 comments on the draft! We like to think this reflects the surging interest in the climate-ocean nexus. SROCC will deepen our understanding of how the Ocean, as well as icy polar and mountain regions, will be impacted by climate change. With new reports that rain is melting Greenland’s ice, even in winter, and that it’s losing ice at four times the 2003 rate, raising fears about sea level rise, the Navigator hopes that SROCC will trigger joint action to address the crisis of warming seas and thawing ice.
Fisheries subsidies WTO talks intensify
The countdown is on for reaching an agreement on fisheries subsidies by the end of 2019 and pressure is mounting. Fisheries is the only multilateral negotiation currently taking place at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has called it ‘one of the important issues of our time’. An estimated US$20 billion is paid out every year mainly to subsidize the cost of the fuel that allows vessels to operate thousands of miles from home. A handful of nations are responsible for most of the subsidies, and about 85% goes to large-scale industrial fleets, further disadvantaging smaller artisanal fisheries. Fishers in developing countries get US$1 in subsidies for every US$7 that go to developed countries. These subsidies fuel overfishing and IUU fishing and we urgently need a high-level political commitment to end them once and for all. But, as ever with international negotiations, nothing is simple and talks have been intensifying as the deadline nears.
Division lines are essentially drawn between developing nations who want concessions and nations eager for a deal to cut subsidies. India is planning to build a coalition of developing countries at the informal meeting of trade ministers on 13th-14th May to fight to safeguard Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) at WTO, which they see as under threat from a US and Australia proposal for member-specific limits on fisheries subsidies. The fisheries subsidies negotiations are becoming the battleground for the tricky S&DT debate at WTO. China is facing a big decision and many believe it is the linchpin to reaching a deal. But its position remains unclear and there are fears that while China appears committed to cutting subsidies, it is embracing a policy of expanded fishing effort abroad. Meanwhile, the U.S., a leader of international efforts to end subsidies, is proposing a new one of its own. Speaking of contradictory positions, on 4th April the European Parliament voted to affirm a proposal to re-introduce fishing subsidies in its post-2020 fisheries fund – a move described as in ‘direct violation’ of the EU’s international commitments to the SDGs and one that will compromise their position in the WTO negotiations. Just what we need.
There are only 7 months left to meet the end-of-2019 deadline and none of these obstacles are insurmountable if governments are willing to compromise and listen to experts. Perhaps delegates need to be reminded of the duel threats facing a healthy marine environment: the biodiversity and climate crises (see above). Proxy battles shouldn’t be fought over issues that can be sorted and solved, saving money, jobs and ensuring food for the future. We cannot let this long-awaited chance to end harmful fisheries subsidies slip through the net.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
World Oceans Day: Exploring the gender dimension
This year, the theme for World Oceans Day on 8th June is ‘Gender and the Ocean’. It’s an opportunity to explore and promote the often-overlooked gender dimension of humankind’s relationship with the Ocean. For a start, we need to learn more. There is very little data and research on this subject, despite the importance of gender equality for the effective conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. The UN hopes that this World Oceans Day will build greater Ocean and gender literacy and identify new ways to promote gender equality in activities including marine scientific research, fisheries, labor at sea, migration and human trafficking, policy-making and management.
Women’s voices must be heard in all Ocean-related fields. But that’s not always the case. Look at SDG14 itself. It’s an essential goal for the life of our planet, and the Ocean feeds and provides jobs for billions of people, so why – unlike most other SDGs – is there no mention of gender? There should be. Fishing and aquaculture have a strong gender dimension. Half of all seafood workers are women, but they are hugely under-represented in leadership positions and there’s clear evidence that women and men in the fishing industry are treated and paid unequally. Much of fisheries work is segregated by gender, with women concentrated in poorly or even unpaid fish processing and low-value harvesting. Women also have less access to funding, training and market opportunities and are rarely given a seat on local, regional, national or international bodies that make key decisions on laws, policies and standards that directly affect them. When given the opportunity, women have advocated for the common good in Ocean conservation, raising important and often neglected concerns. Engaging more women in positions of power and influence in the maritime industries would enlarge the talent pool for innovation and productivity. On the other hand, stifling and neglecting the role of women robs us of all the solutions women could offer for protecting the Ocean and creating sustainable Ocean-based livelihoods. Just look at all the women driving Ocean conservation efforts to get a sense of what is possible.
This World Oceans Day is an opportunity for everyone to consider how gender biases are undermining our search for sustainable Ocean solutions, and how to remove them. Gender may not be mentioned in SDG14, but we can make sure all voices are heard in our efforts to meet its targets. Find out about WOD events in your region and how to get involved, here.
G7 Environment Ministerial: ocean protection to fight inequality
France has set an ambitious agenda for its 2019 G7 Presidency, focusing on climate change, human development, and peace and security. At the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August, the fight against inequality will take center stage and France has identified five key objectives, including ‘reducing environmental inequality by protecting our planet through climate finance and a fair ecological transition, preserving biodiversity and the oceans.’ That’s the challenge G7 Environment, Oceans and Energy Ministers will face when they meet in the French city of Metz on 5th-6th May. As France’s Foreign Minister confirmed in a recent speech, a major priority for their G7 presidency ‘will be to combat inequalities linked to the climatic and environmental emergency … The ecological transition must lead to greater social and geographical justice.’ As the declining, closely connected states of our climate and Ocean are driving inequality and injustice around the world, we hope to see the world’s richest countries come up with concrete proposals for multilateral action in Metz. President Macron appears to agree, declaring at the One Climate Summit in Nairobi last month: ‘Our youth tell us, “You are not moving fast enough.” They have reason to be impatient because we’ve acted too slowly. … The best response to climate change is not words, but actions.’
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Cautious optimism after High Seas Treaty talks
The 2nd Intergovernmental Conference (IGC2) on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) ended on 5th April, with delegates and NGOs again cautiously optimistic about the herculean task of negotiating a new High Seas Treaty. Optimistic, because states remain committed to working towards the 2020 deadline. Cautious, because although there is expanding convergence on many of the treaty’s substantive elements, there are still many opposing positions. On the positive side, the majority of states supported including a process for designating high seas MPAs – vital for vulnerable coastal communities – and many agreed on the need to establish a scientific committee. There was also support for continuing with a transparent, time-bound consultation process that includes all stakeholders. However, there is a frustrating lack of ambition by some larger states around capacity building and tech transfer. To expediate the next phase of negotiations, many states called for a ‘zero draft’ text ahead of the next meeting (19th-30th August 2019) and the President of the Conference committed to providing one before 25th July.
In the end, the albatross was the star of the meeting, and proved a motivating mascot. Hopefully, it will inspire states to soar to new heights of consensus as they navigate the complex trade-offs needed to agree a strong, binding High Seas Treaty by 2020. As the High Seas Alliance stressed, ‘it is urgent to take full advantage of this fleeting opportunity.’
EU-China Summit: is China’s Antarctic obstruction thawing?
The EU-China Summit in Brussels on 9th April was heralded as an historic opportunity to protect the Southern Ocean and, on the surface at least, the signs are positive. While 2018 ended with disappointment when China joined Russia in blocking the EU’s proposal to protect almost 1 million km2 in East Antarctica – despite having just signed a Blue Partnership with the EU that incorporated Southern Ocean protection – there is now reason to hope that its position has changed. In the Joint Statement following the 2019 Summit, the EU and China ‘reaffirm their commitment towards the effective implementation of the Blue Partnership for the Oceans, … including by the establishment of marine protected areas in the Antarctic Ocean.’
Supporting the East Antarctic MPA would go a long way toward boosting China’s conservation credentials before it hosts the 2020 Convention on Biological Diversity, another topic on the table in Brussels. The two parties agreed to ‘work together for an ambitious and realistic post-2020 global biodiversity framework.’ We won’t know whether China will actually reverse its obstructionist stance on Antarctic MPAs until CCAMLR meets again at the end of October, but we welcome the hopeful statement at the Summit. China should be reminded of these words in the crucial months ahead.
Chilling priorities at the Arctic Summit
‘The Arctic: An Ocean of Opportunity’ was the theme of this year’s Arctic Forum in St Petersburg on 9th-10th April, which gathered 3,600 participants from 52 countries. Was it an opportunity to unite to protect one of Earth most fragile, vital and still largely pristine areas? Or an opportunity to study and act on the accelerating climate change that’s causing the Arctic to warm at twice the rate as the rest of the planet? Sadly, no. It was chilling to see the unprecedented melting of Arctic ice being welcomed as an opportunity for more extraction, more shipping, more infrastructure. President Putin put forward an ambitious program to secure Russia’s foothold in the Arctic, including building new ports and other infrastructure facilities and expanding its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet from 4 to 9 vessels by 2035. He announced that ‘a global transportation corridor is going to be built compromising the Northern Sea Route’ enabling a quadrupling of the amount of cargo carried to 80 million tonnes by 2025.
All 5 Arctic heads of state had a similar official message at the Summit: extract sustainably, cooperate fully and keep the Arctic a low-tension zone – even if they disagree on many other issues. But, with Russia flexing its muscles, and ramping up its military presence, and the U.S. Administration attempting (unsuccessfully) to reverse bans on offshore drilling, it is feared that all is not quiet on the Arctic front. The clear focus on extraction ‘in a sustainable way’, and recognition that melting ice is opening up new opportunities for shipping and access to resources, doesn’t give much confidence in the future of the Arctic – or the planet. It is a superb irony that the Arctic, the tip of the iceberg of climate disruption, is being touted as open for more business. There is no place for oil drilling here, or indeed anywhere, if we want a low-carbon future. So it’s heartening to see climate protests gaining support, and to be able to report some good news from the (for now) frozen North. The largest party in Norway’s parliament withdrew its support for explorative drilling off the biologically rich Lofoten Islands, meaning that it will not go ahead. The oil industry is ‘surprised and disappointed’ but we hope this decision sparks a change in direction that will spread worldwide.
Monaco Blue Initiative: Post-2020 Ocean Vision
Participants at the 10th Monaco Blue Initiative on 24th-25th March discussed the actions needed to advance greater ambition in the post-2020 period, after the current target to conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas has been achieved, and explored the benefits of MPAs. HSH Prince Albert II stressed that it is fundamental to change our vision for the Ocean by boosting dialogue and identifying concerted actions to prevent the deterioration of marine ecosystems. Links with ongoing BBNJ treaty negotiations and the 2019 G7 Summit were highlighted, as was the importance of the many key events coming up in 2020, including the World Conservation Congress, CBD COP15, and the 2020 UN Ocean Conference.