Friday, June 22, 2012

No Future We Want Without the Ocean We Need

The ocean received an unprecedented level of attention during the Rio+20 Conference becoming one of the most high visibility issues and the last piece of text to be resolved.

In contrast to 1992, attention on the ocean was significant and led to protracted and heated debate within the negotiations.

Some of the ocean outcomes were positive, while others fell a long way short of what marine scientists and campaigners had hoped and worked for, it was, nonetheless, a breakthrough year for the cause of conservation of 70% of our planet.

Members of the High Seas Alliance (HSA) attending the Conference said the final outcome should be a catalyst for action. Pointing out that although much of the text is a re-affirmation of existing promises and commitments, Susanna Fuller, Coordinator of the HSA said: “If Rio+20 achieves nothing else, it should mark the end of empty promises and the beginning of strong ocean action. If it catalyses actual change, along with implementation of and compliance with the measures already promised, then it will have achieved something.”

Examining what implementation of the text could and should mean “on the water”, the HSA identified six clear areas for international and national action:
  • Fulfillment of the UN resolution to end deep sea bottom fishing;
  • An end to overfishing—including the suspension of fishing in some cases until stocks have recovered;
  • Requirement that regional fisheries management bodies be accountable to the UN;
  • National action to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies;
  • Closure of ports to illegally obtained fish;
  • Establishment of national and high seas marine protected areas, including reserves.
Professor Alex Rogers of marine science body International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: “There will never be the future we want without the ocean we need. We have to use Rio+20 to draw a line under the talking and start the doing. These decisions are all urgent, important and game changing measures which should be immediately implemented by governments as a direct response to the oceans text.”

The major disappointment was around the drive to launch negotiations of a new agreement to protect the high seas. A disappointing outcome defers a decision for two and a half years. In spite of excellent leadership and support by Brazil, the European Union the Pacific Small Island Developing States and others, this weak decision was all that was possible, due to opposition from the US, Canada and a handful of other countries.

Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said: “Rio+20 has shown less backbone than your average cnidarian (jelly fish) but if we use this to take the action clearly indicated then progress will have been made.”

Sue Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group said: “We came to Rio with high expectations for action to address the ocean crisis. It would be a mistake to call Rio a failure, but for a once-in-a-decade meeting with so much at stake, it was a far cry from a success.”

An explanation of how each point of the oceans text relates to the areas above is available on


For further information please contact: Olivia Lawson on 81525894

Photo courtesy of High Seas Alliance