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Marine Protection as Stand-Alone Goal for Post-2015 Agenda?

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 6 2014 (IPS) - A multi-stakeholder group has expressed strong support for a stand- alone goal to protect healthy oceans in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda to be finalised next year.

Organised by the permanent missions of Italy, Monaco and Palau on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly sessions last week, the event was an opportunity for heads of states, representatives of the private sector, civil society and academics to come together around a topic that has wide implications, particularly related to food security.

“Healthy oceans are crucial for a sustainable development and they must be front and centre of a standalone goal if we are to eradicate poverty, feed the planet, develop our economies and protect our environment”, said Stuart Beck, Palau’s Ambassador for Oceans and Seas.

A nation-wide marine sanctuary in Palau, with a total ban on fishing will be implemented thanks to the contribution of Italy and Monaco and it will help regenerate the marine ecosystem.

Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said: “Our aquatic environment is under stress from overexploitation, pollution, declining biodiversity, climate change, invasive species and ocean acidification”.

“In fisheries and aquaculture, unsustainable development has lead to overfishing, ecosystem degradation and habitat and biodiversity loss”, she added, pointing out that responsible seafood chain and fisheries governance are needed to reverse negative trends.

FAO and the World Bank say restoring the fish stock and reducing fishing capacity would lead to economic gains of 50 billion dollars per year.

Ellen Pikitch, an academic from Stonybrook University in New York, said that overfishing has been the most destructive force inflicted upon the oceans, followed suit by habitat loss.

Every year 100 million tons of fish are harvested, with a full 40 percent of that figure representing accidental by-catch, fish that get wounded, killed, and often wasted.

Stocks of some valuable species have been depleted about 90 percent and the blue-fin tuna, for example, has been overfished to 99,5 percent. A hundred marine species also got extinct, but this is only what has been recorded by scientists.

These sets of data, in fact, are only available for 20 percent of the marine species, which means the situation of the remaining 80 percent of the ocean inhabitants is unknown, explains Pikitch.

The share of overfished marine fish stock increased from 10 percent in 1997 to nearly one third today, she explained, and uncurbed illegal, unreported fishing is estimated at 15-20 million tons a year.

The current approach of: “Fish first, ask questions later”, lead to this situation.

Protected areas cover two percent of the oceans, with only one percent of full no-take zones. This falls short of the recommended 20-30 percent recommended by scientists.

Palau’s sanctuary would be the world largest fully protected area, and it would be contributing with an additional 17 percent. Other initiatives go in the same direction.

Pelagos, a marine protected area in the Mediterranean sea, was set up by Italy, Monaco and France. The Marshall Islands implemented a shark sanctuary and conservation programmes.

U.N. member states and philanthropists, like the London-based Bianca Jagger and Human Rights Foundation, are pledging money and energies to restore oceans in a fight for both food protection and climate change mitigation.

Currently, one of the U.N.’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14) is set to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

 
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