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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
We have reached the half-way point in a year unlike any we’ve ever seen before. Sadly, COVID-19 continues to threaten many communities, while some of those impacted earlier in the pandemic are beginning to emerge and heal. There is also an upwelling of mass demonstrations and protests against racial injustice and violence demanding deep structural changes to our societies. 2020 is a year of disruption; people are demanding a more equitable, inclusive, sustainable world. And in the midst of this upheaval, we marked a thoughtful, virtual World Oceans Day on 8th June, united by technology but still stranded together in isolation by the current restrictions.
The number 1 question behind every discussion is: how can we seize this opportunity to ‘Build Back Bluer‘ and make a healthy Ocean a key component of the post-COVID-19 recovery? There’s no shortage of ideas, but it is critical that we open our mind, listen and incorporate the voices and ideas from communities around the world calling for a bluer-rebuild because there can be no environmental justice without social justice.
The Navigator will be docked for the next 2 months on its annual July-August break, but will return in September with a bumper edition of Ocean action.
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
From sea to shining sea – US marine protection under attack
Under the pretense of boosting the economy and jobs, the Trump administration is taking steps that completely defy science by stripping vital protections from marine reserves in the Atlantic and considering the same in the Pacific at a time when we need to protect more of the Ocean, not less. On 5th June, President Trump issued an Executive Order lifting all restriction on commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument claiming that reopening the area to commercial fishing will benefit jobs and the fishing sector, despite government data showing their designation is causing no economic loss to the commercial fishing industry. The area that was designated by the Obama administration in September 2016 is the only marine protected area (MPA) in the US Atlantic Ocean and home to thousand-year-old corals, endangered whales and sea turtles. Environmental NGOs have reacted with justified anger, with the NRDC calling the action illegal and preparing “to sue the Administration to protect these marine treasures from harm and exploitation”.
Meanwhile, trouble is also brewing in the Pacific following an Executive Order by President Trump on 7th May on how to “improve the competitiveness of American industry” and “remove unnecessary regulatory burdens”. He invited the 8 US regional fishery management councils to recommend ways to “liberate” domestic fishing from regulation. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) wasted no time, writing to the President the very next day to claim that “fishing restrictions in the Pacific marine national monuments are impeding America’s three main tuna fisheries in the Pacific and … have no proven conservation benefit.” The letter highlighted that “quick action is urgently needed” to meet “exceptionally high retail demand” for canned tuna due to the global pandemic.
Once again, the claims do not stand up to scientific scrutiny as shown earlier this year by a team of economists and scientists who found that the expansion of the Pacific marine protected areas (MPAs) by President Obama in 2014 and 2016 had “little if any negative impacts” on the catch and that Hawaii’s longline fleet had in fact caught more fish after the monuments were expanded. Like in the Atlantic, environmental groups are rallying against any the erosion of Pacific marine protections. The Honolulu office of Earth Justice declared itself “prepared to go to court” and rebukes claims that the pandemic is justification for expanding fishing as “there is a glut of fish rotting in the fish markets in Honolulu” since all the hotels and restaurants have closed.
Rolling back environmentel protections under cover of the pandemic is just not on and leaders from the US, Malaysia, Brazil and Albania need to stop using it as an excuse.
FAO's State of World Fisheries … not so good
The release of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report is a big event for people – like us – who love Ocean data, and the arrival of SOFIA 2020 on 8th June was no exception. As usual, it was a mix of good and bad news. First, the bad: overfishing of wild stocks has increased from 33.1% to 34.2% since the last report in 2018. It may not sound like a huge rise but considering SDG14 calls for governments to “by 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing” it is hugely disappointing to still be heading in the wrong direction. The Mediterranean and Black Sea areas are at the bottom of the class, with 62.5% of stocks overfished. The FAO’s Director-General pointed to growing evidence that good fisheries management can rebuild fish stocks but implementation failures threaten their contributions to food security and livelihoods.
Fish consumption is growing and predicted to rise by 15% by 2030. Without effective fisheries management measures in place, both food security and livelihoods are threatened. This includes governments finally taking real action to end harmful fishing subsidies – and not letting COVID-19 derail the commitment to agree to eliminate these subsidies by the end of 2020. Accelerating global heating only adds to the urgency. Overfishing reduces the number and size of fish in the Ocean, changes marine food webs and makes the entire Ocean ecosystem more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Even though the links are often not made, ending overfishing can also have positive climate impacts.
Setting sights on 2021 for delayed climate and biodiversity summits
No new dates have been announced yet for the postponed Biodiversity Summit originally meant to take place in October 2020 in Kunming, China. According to the latest news, the meeting is tentatively expected to be held during the second quarter of 2021. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is also currently exploring alternative arrangements for its prep meetings – (24th Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 24), and 3rd Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI 3), which were tentatively scheduled in August 2020, in Montreal, Canada. With many countries still actively fighting rising COVID-19 infection rates and others at different stages of recovery, it is not an easy time for bringing people together from different parts of the world. The CBD emphasize that they remain fully committed to the successful and timely preparation of these meetings and the development of the hugely important Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Marine protection targets: time for a 10x20 home run while eyeing the 30x30 prize
We are entering the final 6-month home stretch for SDG14.5 to protect 10% of marine areas by the end of 2020. Today, 7.4% of the global Ocean is officially classified as protected after several major MPA designations propelled us within reach of the “10×20” target. Although if you take into account how much of these areas are protected in implemented and actively managed marine protected areas the figure is only 5.3% (see below for what constitutes an MPA). This is far from the limit of global ambitions! Next step: “30×30”. Strategically placed, highly protected, effectively implemented MPAs covering at least 30% of the Ocean is the minimum scientists consider necessary for building resilience to Ocean heating and acidification, and creating space for biodiversity and fish stocks to replenish. Studies show that MPAs are among the most effective nature-based solutions for combatting climate change. Experts are optimistic that the goal is achievable and an increasing number of governments agree – including the EU – leading to a growing movement for the 30% by 2030 goal to be 1 of the official global targets in the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework currently under negotiation. The UK also announced in June that 7 new countries had joined the Global Ocean Alliance which it initiated specifically to secure 30% by 2030 Ocean protection, bringing the total on board to 20.
Meanwhile the Caribbean will be taking stock on progress made since the launch of the second phase of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) – a voluntary commitment by Caribbean governments to protect up to 20% of their marine environment by 2020. The CCI, together with the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), are convening a virtual week of discussions from 13th-16th July focused on ‘Nature Based Solutions for our Caribbean Future’. Anyone interested can listen in on the meeting’s 4 High-Level panels covering topics on sustainable financing for protected areas, nature’s role in COVID-19 responses, enhancing ecosystem based adaptation and the Caribbean perspective on the 2030 Biodiversity Framework.
Since 2013, the Caribbean region has demarcated over 45,000 km2 of MPAs. They also wisely created a sustainable financing mechanism that provides annual endowment funding to national conservation trust funds established by participating Caribbean governments. Ocean Unite is part of the organizing committee for this year’s CCI-CBF Week and we’re excited to be diving into the Caribbean.
With mobilization behind the 30×30 target gathering pace, it is vital to agree on what constitutes an MPA – helped by this new MPA guide and cartoon – and consider where in the Ocean these protections should be. 2 recent studies, using different methodologies, resulted in slightly different recommendations but also considerable overlap in their proposals to safeguard certain areas of biological and ecological importance. 1 thing is clear: with just 1.2% of the High Seas currently protected, creating MPAs in these areas is a top priority – and that means we need a strong High Seas Treaty that can designate and implement these MPAs. Watch this space for news of the currently postponed, eagerly anticipated High Seas Treaty negotiations.
But there is no need to wait for the treaty to get started before we can take action in international waters. There are 3 MPA proposals already on the table that would expand protection of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica by a further almost 4 million km2 – that’s 1% of the global Ocean. All that’s needed is for China and Russia to join the other members of CCAMLR, agree to these MPAs when they meet – hopefully! virtually? – this October, and secure the greatest act of Ocean protection in human history. For a world badly in need of some good news, this would be an incredible moment and a sign that we are serious about safeguarding our planet as part of the COVID-19 recovery. We hope over the coming months there will be a public wave of support for Antarctic protection. Keep an eye out for #Antarctica2020 and help make history today to save tomorrow!
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
A Virtual World Oceans Day with real ambitions
On World Oceans Day, 8th June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a sanguine reminder that “as we work to end the pandemic and build back better, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity – and responsibility – to correct our relationship with the natural world, including the world’s seas and oceans.” The day highlighted aims to enhance Ocean Literacy and shine a light on SDG14 and its importance for our planetary ecosystem. Catch up on all the highlights here. It may have been the world first Virtual WOD, but there were still Ocean caretakers out in the real world, on islands and coastlines from the Isle of Skye to Zanzibar, working alone and in small groups to clean beaches, study marine wildlife, and “raise hell for policymakers!”. Some policymakers rose to the occasion. The EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, a member of the Ocean Unite Network, announced that the European Commission strongly supports the global “30×30” goal and that the EU will increase its network of MPAs and other effective conservation measures by 19% over the next 10 years to achieve 30% by 2030 as part of its new Biodiversity Strategy. Viva Europa!
1 good thing about a virtual WOD is that it is still possible to catch up on any events you missed on the day. Take a plunge into the Investing in innovation and blue nature: A World Oceans Day webinar (sign-up for free to watch the video) co-hosted by Credit Suisse, Ocean Unite, Responsible Investor and the EU Commission. Then take a Deep Dive into Antarctica with Ocean Unite and Antarctica 2020 to find out how it is still possible to take ambitious Ocean action in 2020. This is the perfect gateway to exploring the rest of the World Economic Forum’s first ever Virtual Ocean Dialogues – 5 days of panel debates and deep dives accompanied by top scientists, activists, policymakers and even government leaders including New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. All from the comfort of your own home – what more could you ask for?
Much as we enjoyed this disrupted WOD 2020, we hope that next year we can gather in person at events and projects across our blue planet – and even better that we will “Drop the S” and celebrate World Ocean Day for our 1 GLOBAL OCEAN.
Wheels of Change: the shape of Europe’s circular economy vision
The European Commission has launched a Circular Economy Action Plan as a key plank of the European Green Deal to make its economy fit for a green future. The plan aims to ensure that resources used stay in the economy for as long as possible, there is less waste and the EU’s consumption footprint is significantly reduced. According to the Commission, applying ambitious circular economy measures can increase the EU’s GDP by 0.5% by 2030, creating around 700,000 new jobs. In other related news, Finland, the Netherlands and Canada announced that they would be postponing the World Circular Economy Forum that was supposed to be in Toronto later this year to 2021.
That’s good news and it could not come at a better time. New studies show that a circular economy of plastics will both reduce plastic pollution and slow down climate change. The EU Action Plan also chimes perfectly with the Rise Up Blue Call to Action, which is attracting growing numbers of sign-ons and is now endorsed by over 200 organizations. Afterall, the “S” in Rise Up stands for “Speed the transition to a circular and sustainable economy”.