Members of the High Seas Alliance (HSA) were profoundly disappointed by the decision to delay action on high seas protection in the conference text, despite some more promising measures to improve ocean health.
In an ironic twist of fate, the ocean dialogue – the voice of civil society and science - was concluding that high seas biodiversity protection should be a top priority for the Rio+20 Conference at exactly the same time as the negotiators were adopting a seriously weakened text.
Referring to the oceans text which deals with a long awaited governance structure for the high seas, members of the HSA said, "The negotiators have used 118 words where four would do – ‘We are doing nothing."
The coalition of the unwilling comprising US, Canada, Japan, Venezuela and Russia blocked relatively strong language to implement high seas protection leaving the Conference with a nonsense decision to wait another three years before making a decision.
Susanna Fuller of the HSA said, "There's no commitment - it's like telling your girlfriend you promise to decide in three years whether or not to decide, whether or not to get married. We don't have time for this nonsense; the ocean doesn't have time."
A cause for optimism, however, is the extent to which many governments supported and defended high seas protection and which can now drive this forward beyond Rio+20. Sue Lieberman of HSA Member the Pew Environment Group said: "There are strong outcomes in the text that relate to fisheries, illegal fishing, and harmful subsidies, and government leaders should use their speeches and interventions here in Rio to make firm commitments to implement these decisions, and to commit to take urgent action for the high seas".
Photo courtesy of High Seas Alliance