Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rio+20 - Summit of the Seas?

Coverage in the Brazilian media over the the past 24 hours indicates that Rio+20 could 'go down in history as 'Summit of the Seas' and that the summit will conclude with a commitment to regulate the exploitation of high seas resources. Three articles have featured in the Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest circulation newspaper, since Thursday evening.

Following the Brazilian Government press conference on the 14th of June, Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, head of the Brazilian delegation at Rio +20, stated that a large number of countries support a proposal to negotiate a new ‘addendum’ or implementing agreement under the UN Law of the Sea Convention to regulate the exploitation of natural resources on the high seas.

"We think this is a shortcoming of the UN Law of the Sea Convention that must be filled. We are very confident that we will leave here with a clear indication that we will open a further process of negotiating this agreement," said Figueiredo.

The United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 is signed by 162 countries. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

Further coverage in the Folha de Sao Paulo featured an interview with Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and High Seas Alliance in an article entitled Rio+20 'Conference could go down in history as 'Summit of the Seas'. Gianni outlined the greatest threats to the ocean and what Rio+20 can do for the high seas. He was quoted as saying that the greatest threats to the high seas are “overfishing and destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling on seamounts”. Responding to the question of what Rio+20 could do for the high seas he stated " The best result would be to negotiate a new agreement for the conservation of the high seas… its been under discussion for six years but no decision has yet been made"

Whatever is agreed on oceans at Rio+20, Gianni indicated that the greatest hurdle may be implementation. He stated that "despite opposition from Canada, Russia, Iceland, South Korea and the USA, Brazil has been progressive on the issue and we hope that Brazil makes this a priority for Rio+20".

Photo courtesy of Moyan_Brenn via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)