Tag Archives: Oceans

Maintaining Healthy Ocean Fisheries to Support Livelihoods: Achieving SDG 14 in Europe

By Karmenu Vella

“The problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole.” So says the preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—and never were those words more apt than in relation to the challenges we face today.

As global actors, the European Union (EU) and its member States share the fundamental obligation and responsibility to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans and their resources. We know that healthy and productive oceans are key to long-term sustainable development. We believe there is an urgent need to take action and tackle social, economic and environmental issues so that the oceans, the seas and their resources can support the livelihoods of coastal communities and continue to provide for future generations.

We are therefore strongly committed to the successful implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which, for the first time, calls on the global community to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

By including healthy fisheries among the SDGs, the United Nations and global civil society have affirmed the importance of fisheries for global food security and employment, as well as their contribution to alleviating poverty. Despite our international commitments, however, fish stocks in many areas continue to be overexploited. Urgent action at both the national and regional levels is needed to tackle this problem, and in particular to preserve stocks and restore them to sustainable levels.

Such action should involve implementing science-based management measures; applying a precautionary approach when scientific knowledge is limited; stepping up the fight against illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, including through the use of catch documentation schemes and port State measures; and managing by-catch and discards.

The EU is leading the way in the creation of a stronger system of ocean governance. On 10 November 2016, the European Commission and the EU High Representative set out a joint agenda for the future of our oceans, proposing 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world.

One of the priorities of my mandate as European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is the implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP),1 which entered into force in January 2014 with the aim of ensuring that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Not only does this provide EU citizens with healthy and traceable food, it also fosters a dynamic fishing industry and ensures a fair standard of living for fishing communities.

The Policy is designed to manage a common resource sustainably. It gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds. It sets rules for making European fishing fleets sustainable and for the conservation of fish stocks. In particular, CFP sets out a legal obligation to reach maximum sustainable yield (MSY) as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest, ensuring that fishermen only take as much from the sea as can be sustained in the long term.

To do this, the European Commission proposes annual total allowable catches (TACs) for most commercial stocks in EU waters. The proposed quantities are set with a view to ensuring MSY, based on scientific advice and economic analysis from independent bodies. Once TACs have been set, EU member States are assigned national quotas, complemented by technical measures, in particular to help protect fragile habitats.

In addition, almost all important stocks and fisheries are maintained by means of multi-annual plans that set the goal for fish stock management in terms of fishing mortality and/or targeted stock size. Some plans also set out a detailed and tailor-made road map for achieving the objective. Some multi­annual plans include fishing effort restrictions as an additional instrument to TACs and specific control rules.

Yet the impact of fishing on the fragile marine environment is difficult to fully grasp and foresee. This is why CFP adopts a precautionary and an ecosystem approach that takes into account the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem and seeks to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture activities do not contribute in any way to the degradation of the marine environment. In particular, it seeks to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch, and to phase out the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted fish. By 2019, all European fisheries will be covered by the landing obligation, prohibiting the practice of throwing unwanted catches back into the sea.

The first signs that our work is paying off are already being seen. Fisheries in Europe are making steady progress towards our sustainability target. In the North-East Atlantic, including the North and Baltic Seas, the push towards sustainability is both widespread and visible. While in the early 2000s most stocks were overfished, today more than half of the assessed stocks are managed sustainably, including many of the largest and commercially most valuable stocks.

This is not just good news for fish stocks, but for fishermen as well. New European Commission data finds that, with net profit margins at 10 per cent, the EU fleet made large profits in 2014, thus increasing its economic performance significantly compared to 2008. Progress, however, has not been uniform: fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas continue to fare poorly and are still overfished. As our scientific knowledge of these seas improves, the challenges to fisheries in the area become obvious.

That is why the European Commission is taking action. From 29 to 30 March 2017, we hosted a ministerial conference in Malta on Mediterranean fisheries, bringing together ministers from EU and non-EU countries in the Mediterranean basin. The conference culminated in the signature of the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, which will provide a significant political push to address the alarming state of stocks and its impact on the industry and coastal communities of the Mediterranean basin over the next 10–15 years.

We know that our goals are ambitious—and that is why the European Commission is supporting member States in implementing CFP. Funds are available to help fishermen adapt to a changing environment and to support coastal communities in diversifying their economies, creating new jobs and ultimately improving the quality of life along European coasts and beyond. For the period between 2014 and 2020, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund2 alone is making 5.7 billion euros available to member States. In addition, the European Commission is also supporting marine science under its research programme Horizon 2020.

Step by step, these instruments are taking us closer to our objective of healthy oceans and thriving coastal communities across Europe. But much more still needs to be done, and no actors can protect the ocean on their own. This is why the European Commission is working closely with its member States and seeking to cooperate with its neighbours and international partners.

The oceans are a heritage we all share. Their protection is our common responsibility. The European Union is looking forward to the Ocean Conference, to be held at the United Nations in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017, and to hosting the Our Ocean Conference from 5 to 6 October 2017 in Malta, where world leaders will gather to send a strong message of unity in the quest to save our oceans and seas and deliver high-level commitments to that end.

 

Notes

1       Information on the Common Fisheries Policy is available from https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp_en.

2       Information on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is available from https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/emff_en.

Author bio: Karmenu Vella is European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Know Your Ocean. Love Your Ocean.

By Emily Penn

I was woken in the middle of the night by a thud on the hull of our boat. We rushed up on deck to find we were surrounded by pieces of plastic floating in the ocean. It didn’t make any sense. We were over 1000 miles from land. The closest people to us were in the International Space Station, in orbit above our heads. And yet here was evidence of human life, and waste, all around us in one of the most remote parts of our planet.

I was just out of university and working my passage to Australia when this incident sparked a new career direction for me: sailing the world on a mission to connect people—scientists and communicators—with the ocean, exploring marine issues from the Equator to the Poles.

At sea I saw first-hand the collapse of fisheries, toxic chemicals accumulating in marine organisms, island communities relying on imported packaged food and the extent of plastic pollution. We would stop at small islands and find that the locals could no longer catch fish to feed their families because commercial vessels had caused their fisheries to collapse. They could no longer grow crops in the ground as the rising sea levels had made their soil too salty. The consequence of this was a new reliance on imported food that comes wrapped and packaged in this strange new material—plastic.

With no system in place to deal with this trash, it ends up getting thrown on the beach and in the ocean, and is often burned. That stench of burning plastic kept getting in my nose. When I started researching what the smell was, I learned about certain chemicals—dioxins—that are formed during incomplete combustion of waste, and how they are carcinogens that can get absorbed into our bodies.

And so this became my first mission: to eliminate the burning of plastic across a group of islands in Tonga.

THE TONGA CHALLENGE

First it was about shifting thinking. As I started learning the Tongan language, I realized there wasn’t a word for ‘rubbish bin’ on these South Pacific islands. The concept of throwing something away into a managed system didn’t exist in that culture, as it hadn’t needed to exist until very recently-organics can be thrown on the ground without problem. It wasn’t only infrastructure that was needed; it was a whole new way of thinking about this new inorganic material.

Six months of working and teaching with the local community culminated in a colossal clean up. Together with 3,000 local volunteers we picked up 56 tons of trash in just 5 hours.

This amount of trash staggered me. We collected what was being produced locally, but also what was washing up on the shoreline each day, including items with packaging labels written in languages I didn’t recognize. This got me asking more questions—where was this plastic coming from and why was it ending up on these remote islands in the Pacific?

And so I started to learn more about how we use plastic.

THE DESIGN PROBLEM

It turns out we use nearly 2 million plastic bags, globally, every minute.1 Those bags get used once, maybe twice, probably three times at best. Then they are thrown away. Plastic is an amazing material because it is designed to last forever. We use it to make products such as plastic bags and bottles that are designed to be used once and then thrown away. This mismatch of material science and product design puts us in the situation of having vast amounts of waste that no longer has any use or value.

But that’s OK, I thought. Can’t we just recycle all that plastic? Well no, apparently we cannot. Less than 10 per cent of plastic used in the United States of America ends up getting recycled.2 A visit to a recycling centre showed me why that number was so low. Plastic is an umbrella term we give to many different materials that all have different properties, and therefore different chemical structures. To recycle them, they first need to be cleaned and separated, a lengthy and expensive process, which in itself consumes enormous amounts of energy and water. There also needs to be a demand for people to pay more for recycled materials rather than opt for cheaper virgin plastic.

Given that we have all this used plastic with no place to go, it is not surprising that we see tons—up to 8 million metric tons each year3—washing down our streams and waterways and into the ocean.

I learned about where plastic goes when it leaves land, and how it moves with the ocean currents and ends up accumulating in five hot spots—known as the five subtropical oceanic gyres. In the centre of the gyre (the large system of rotating currents) the ocean is calm and everything, whether it is a piece of organic debris or a piece of plastic, is drawn to the centre. I heard about floating ‘islands’ of plastic, but the more I learned the more I realized how little we collectively knew.

And so this became the next mission: to sail to these accumulation zones and find out what really existed there.

ON A MISSION TO THE GYRES

We went searching for islands of plastic—for areas that could be scooped up and brought back to land for recycling. But we quickly realized that the plastic pieces were smaller than expected. Plastic waste doesn’t just float around in big rafts on the surface. Ultraviolet light photodegrades it into tiny fragments. Some sink, and some are ingested by marine life.4 On my extensive voyages across the globe I have discovered that it is the same story everywhere—not only in the gyres, but all the way from the Tropics to the Arctic. Our oceans have become a fine soup of plastic fragments.

Much of it can’t be seen from the surface by the human eye, which makes the seas look cleaner than they really are, and makes large-scale clean up an immense challenge. We had to take a fine net through the water to take a closer look. Each time we turned the net inside out, we would find hundreds of tiny fragments of plastic.

When we got the samples on board, we analysed them. I was shocked by how difficult it was to distinguish the plastic from the plankton. I wondered how fish cope figuring out what is plastic and what is food. And so we caught fish and looked inside their stomachs, only to realize that there was plastic there too.

This opened up a whole new series of questions. We were not only concerned about the effect plastic may have on the environment through its physical presence, but what about the chemical impact? Given that plastic is getting into the food chain-our food chain-could this mean toxic chemicals are getting inside us?

THE POISON INSIDE

I decided to have my blood tested, to find out what toxic chemicals I have inside me. Working together with the United Nations Safe Planet Campaign,5 we chose to test for 35 chemicals that are all banned because they are known to be toxic to humans and the environment. Of those 35 chemicals, we found 29 of them inside my body.

This is when things really changed for me. So often when we talk about environmental problems we hear about things that are happening somewhere else, to somebody else, at some point in the future. It seems, however, that you and I already have a body burden, a chemical footprint that we will never get rid of. And while the concentrations of chemicals I currently have inside me are not alarmingly high, it’s a chilling indicator of the direction in which our society might be heading.

THE SOLUTIONS

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Albert Einstein

Exploration, understanding and education are keys to helping us figure out how to restore a healthy ocean. The issues are complex but the more time I spend at sea, the more I realize that the solutions start on land.

There are ways to tackle the problem at every point-from source to ocean and from product design to waste management. But to solve these problems for the long term we need to turn off the tap. We need to work at the source. This upstream action is required across all sectors of society, working with designers in industry, policymakers at a governmental level and all of us as individual consumers.

If we want to continue to count on the ocean as a source of food, energy, transport and minerals for generations to come, we need to stem the flow of waste and devise more sustainable ways of using this vital resource. As I learned on my journey, we care most about things to which we feel connected. We urgently need more awareness of our blue planet to regain that connection and inspire action.

We care for what we love. We can only love what we know.

Notes

1       Earth Policy Institute, “Plastic bags fact sheet”, Available from http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/press_room/Plastic_Bags.pdf

(uploaded October 2014).

2       Gaelle Gourmelon, “Global plastic production rises, recycling lags, Worldwatch Institute, 28 January 2015. Available from http://www. worldwatch.org/node/14576.

3       Jenna R. Jambeck and others,. Plastic waste inputs from land into the Ocean, Science, vol. 347, no. 6223 (13 February 2015), p.p. 768-771. Available from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768.full.

4       United Nations Environment Programme, “UN declares war on ocean plastic”, 23 February 2017. Available from http://www.rona.unep.org/un-declares-war-ocean plastic.

5       Safe Planet: the United Nations Campaign for Responsibility on Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes, background note. Available from http://networking.pops.lnt/portals/O/VIvolndexltem/lndex2482JSafePlanet_Body_Burden_backgrounder_21apr2011_rev.pdf (accessed April 2017).

 

Author bio: Emily Penn is Ocean Advocate, Skipper and Co-founder of Pangea Exploration.

We Must Protect the Bounty and Beauty of the Sea

By Edward Norton

President John F. Kennedy, in a speech made at an event for the 1962 America’s Cup race crews, said, “I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. […] We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.”

I have a deep connection to the sea. In 30 years of diving reefs all over the world, from the Caribbean to the Tyrrhenian Seas, from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans, I have seen unimaginable beauty: astonishing abundance, a profusion of colour, and an array of biodiversity that seems only to be possible in the depths of one’s imagination. And yet, it was all true. Fishes, flora, and marine mammals were all connected in a world of irrepressible activity and mystifying tranquility.

Upon becoming a father, one of my greatest joys has been to share this wonder with my children. To my delight, they have taken to the water both naturally and joyfully. But to my deepest regret, I know that they will never see the abundance that I have seen, nor will they swim in waters as pristine as those that I have enjoyed. Apart from this being a tragic impoverishment of experience for them, it also represents a prospective global economic catastrophe.

How did we get here? As quoted by Elizabeth Kolbert in a piece in The New Yorker, the English biologist Thomas Huxley, in a speech delivered at the opening of the London International Fisheries Exhibition in 1883, posed the question: “Are fisheries exhaustible? That is to say, can all the fish which naturally inhabit a given area be extirpated by the agency of man?” In an answer that would be imponderable today, he maintained, “Probably all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible; that is to say that nothing we do seriously affects the number of the fish” in the sea.1

Sadly, over the next hundred years, we have learned that nothing could have been further from the truth. Decades of industrial fishing, with subsidized fleets using sea trawling nets (and their attendant by-catch), has decimated the world’s fish stock. Marine ecosystems have been destroyed by an onslaught of land-based pollution, overfishing (including dynamite fishing), alien invasives, sea level rise, acidification, and finally, the increasingly severe and more frequent coral bleaching essentially driven by climate change and ocean warming. Despite our management efforts, the oceans are being depleted. We have worked our way through whales, tuna, salmon, cod, orange roughy, Patagonian toothfish and countless other species, as well as the creatures that depend on them. This includes us, and therefore, this is no longer merely a metaphysical problem. An estimated 1 billion people around the world depend on fish as their primary source of protein and on the ocean for their livelihoods.

At the same time, we have discovered that coral reefs, the marine equivalents of the tropical rainforests, are dying due to warming oceans. As documented recently by Damien Cave and Justin Gillis in the New York Times2 and by Terry P. Hughes and others in the journal Nature, an alarming portion of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef system, has died in the third worldwide coral bleaching episode since 1998.

The significance of this catastrophe cannot be underestimated, or understated. Hughes, the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, and his colleagues have found that climate-change-induced warming sea temperatures-not other pressures) such as pollution or overfishing-was the driving force behind this massive coral die-off. The authors suggest that only a global effort in “curb future warming” can “secure a future for coral reefs.”3

As the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, I have travelled the world speaking to people about the defining challenge of our generation: bringing the way we live into a sustainable interaction with our planet. Paradoxically and tragically, while the need for global action on our climate has become more urgent, the political opposition we face from the new administration in Washington, D.C. has become more intense. Therefore, now more than ever, we must respect the conservation protocols, including community-managed coral reef and open ocean marine protected areas established by commitments made by countries under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, linked to the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 14 on oceans. This is our last chance to help our oceans survive and recover their lost productivity, so that marine ecosystems can continue to provide food and livelihood security for even more than the one billion people who currently depend on the ocean’s bounty, and so our children can form the timeless bond with the seas that President Kennedy so movingly described over 50 years ago.

Notes

1       Quoted in Elizabeth Kolbert, “‘The scales fall: is there any hope for our overfished oceans?”, The New Yorker (2 August 2010).

2       Damien Cave and Justin Gillis, “Large sections of Australia’s great reef are now dead, scientists find”, New York Times, 15 March 2017.

3       Terry P. Hughes and others, “Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals”, Nature, vol. 543, no. 7654 (16 March 2017). pp. 373-377 (373).

Author bio:

Edward Norton is an acclaimed actor and three-time Academy Award nominee. As United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, Mr. Norton works with the United Nations system and the Convention on Biological Diversity to advocate for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the advancement of sustainable development.

Protecting the Coral Sea-the Cradle to the Great Barrier Reef

By Adele Pedder

The world’s oceans are facing increasing challenges, with threats posed by climate change, pollution and overfishing. In the light of these challenges it is becoming increasingly important to set aside large areas of our ocean to allow ecosystems to operate in their natural state. Globally, more and more nations are relying on marine protected areas and reserves to give their regions of our blue planet a fighting chance.

Australia has a lot at stake as steward of the world’s third-largest marine territory and some of the most diverse marine life on Earth. Our continent rises from the junction of three major oceans and contains tropical, temperate and subantarctic ecosystems, with much of our marine life found nowhere else. Historically, Australia has led the way in global marine conservation. In the 1980s, we created the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and in 2012, we announced what would have become the world’s largest representative national network of marine parks and sanctuaries. This network boasted 60 large marine parks around the nation’s coastline, with the primary objective being biodiversity conservation.

The declaration of the formation of the marine reserve network was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Australian public. It followed 15 years of advocacy, scientific research and consultation, and more than a decade of work by consecutive Governments from both major parties. The marine reserve system went through six rounds of public consultations, with over three quarters of a million people providing submissions—95 per cent in favour of greater protection for Australian maritime zones.

The network includes about a third of Australian offshore Commonwealth waters, with 14 per cent designated as highly protected sanctuary zones. While still falling short of the World Parks Congress recommendation of protecting 20-30 per cent of marine and coastal areas in sanctuary zones, it was a significant increase from the previous 4 per cent.

Despite this progress, Australian marine reserves were suspended from operation by a newly instated Government that ordered a review within its first 100 days of office.1 Leading research institutions, including the Australian Marine Science Association and The Ecology Centre at the University of Queensland, pointed to the lack of research behind the Government’s decision to suspend the marine reserve network,2 but those arguments fell on deaf ears.

The largest and most important park in the reserve system—the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve—lies adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. It is also the reserve that is most likely to be severely affected by the review.

THE CORAL SEA—A BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOT

The Coral Sea is located north-east of Australia’s Queensland coast. It is bounded on the west by the Great Barrier Reef and on the north by the Torres Strait Protected Zone. These ocean environments are inextricably linked and should be managed as a broad ecosystem, particularly in the light of the parlous state of the Great Barrier Reef, which is under significant pressure and has lost half of its coral cover in the last 27 years. In the last 13 months it has endured two consecutive severe bleaching events and a category four cyclone. At the time of writing, the results of these latest impacts had not yet been quantified.

Cradling the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea is a bio­diversity hotspot containing 49 different habitats supporting over 300 threatened species. It is globally recognized for its diversity of large predators, such as sharks, tunas, marlin, swordfish and sailfish, and is one of the last places on Earth where populations have not yet been severely depleted. The Coral Sea provides habitat for many endangered species, including hawksbill and green turtles. It is home to 28 species of whales and dolphins and 27 species of seabirds.

A CRITICAL BIOLOGICAL LINK

The Coral Sea is a critical link between the western Pacific and the Great Barrier Reef, and further on to the Coral Triangle of South-East Asia. It provides many of the necessary stepping stones that enable genetic exchanges between species via ocean currents, which transport spores, larvae and migratory animals. The Coral Sea also plays an important role in replenishing the Great Barrier Reef with new life. It receives oceanic currents flowing west from Vanuatu that restore the biological communities growing on its emergent reefs.

WHAT’S AT STAKE UNDER THE PROPOSED CUTS?

The Coral Sea is one of the very few places in the world where relatively intact tropical marine life can be protected on a large scale. In fact, Dr. Daniela Ceccarelli, a marine ecology consultant at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, found that the Coral Sea sanctuary zones represent “probably the only tropical pelagic environment not markedly impacted by fishing where an area of very large scale can be established and effectively managed.”3 The marine reserve as originally proposed is home to the largest sanctuary zone in Australia and is one of the few places in the world where such a large marine sanctuary can be established to protect a relatively healthy tropical marine environment. This makes the Coral Sea’s conservation values globally significant.4

The Marion Plateau is one of the three key ecological features of the Coral Sea.5 The sanctuary zone at Marion Reef increases protection for the reefs, cays and herbivorous fish of the Plateau. Significantly, the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve is also the only place in Australia where tropical seamount environments are protected.

The Government’s own risk assessment process found eight commercial fishing practices to be incompatible with the conservation values of the Coral Sea.6 Yet the review’s new draft management plan proposes to expose the Reserve to these intensive fishing practices. Furthermore, major concerns exist within the scientific community about the new draft management plan’s low level of protection for the unique habitats of the Coral Sea, particularly its deep water troughs, open water (pelagic) ecosystems and unique coral reefs.7

The marine reserve network sought to achieve comprehensive and representative coverage of major ecological systems in Australia. Rather than overreaching, many scientists have argued that the proportion in areas of sanctuary zones is insufficient to achieve biodiversity conservation.8 In fact, for the Coral Sea specifically, a scientific consensus statement facilitated by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and endorsed by the Australian Marine Sciences Association, as well as over 300 scientists, raised concerns over the inadequate protection for key habitats in the southern and western parts of the Coral Sea.9 The recent review process seeks to significantly reduce what the scientific community has already identified as inadequate or low-level protections.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONTEXT

The Centre for Conservation Geography found that the net social and economic value of the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve to the Australian community amounts to $1.2 billion.10 In addition, they found that the Reserve is predicted to generate a net increase of 100 jobs, with positive impacts on nature-based tourism and recreational fishing outweighing any possible negative impacts on commercial fishing by at least $5 million per annum. The Reserve has been extremely successful at minimizing the displacement of commercial fishing activities with the maximum potential negative impact estimated to be $4.2 million.11 The creation of the Reserve is predicted to expand the tourism industry by 150 per cent, which is a gain in direct sales of $9 million.12

Up to a third of the Reserve was set up to become the exclusive site of recreational and charter fishing, creating what is effectively the largest recreational fishing zone in Australian history. The original zoning proposed in 2012 achieved a good balance between high-level sanctuary zone protection and commercial use. The review puts this very much at risk, however, with big cuts in protection being considered.

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

The review process has released its first report outlining proposed cut backs to the Australian network of marine sanctuaries, with the Coral Sea as its centrepiece and the sanctuary facing the greatest threats. A convincing 50,000 submissions were received, calling on the Government of Australia to make no cuts and instead reinstate the full system of marine reserves and sanctuaries. Significantly, over 5,000 of those submissions were made by recreational fishers. At the time of writing, many Australian scientists, marine stakeholders and members of the ocean-loving community are working hard to prevent the gutting of the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve. The Australian Marine Conservation Society, along with the Save Our Marine Life alliance of 25 conservation groups, believes that the current review of marine reserves should be approached as an opportunity to address weaknesses in the previous plan and to increase protection for Australia’s oceans, not reduce it. This is necessary if Australia is to move towards fulfilling its international commitments for biodiversity protection.

The Government is expected to release the redrafted management plans for the suspended marine reserves for a final round of public consultation in late May 2017.

 

More information can be found in a report commissioned by the Save Our Marine Life alliance entitled The Coral Sea Marine Reserve: Centre for Conservation Geography Report to the Australian Government’s Marine Reserves Review. Available at: http://conservationgeography.org/content/ccg-coral-sea-report-australias-commonwealth-marine-reserves-review.

Notes

1   For further information about the independent Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review, see the website of the Government of Australia at http://www.environment.gov.au/marinereservesreview/home.

2   Judith Friedlander, “Marine reserves ditched despite tide of research”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 September 2014. Available from http://www.smh.com.au/environment/marine-reserves-ditched-despite-tide-of-research-20140825-1083js.html.

3   Daniela M. Ceccarelli, “Australia’s Coral Sea: a biophysical profile”, Report ([Canberra], Pew Environment Group Protect Our Coral Sea,

2011), p. 3. Available from http://www.hsi.org.au/editor/assets/marine_conservation/082011%20Australias%20Coral%20Sea_%20A%20Biophysical%20Profile%20by%20marine%20ecologist%20Dr%20%20Daniela%20Ceccarelli.pdf.

4   Daniel Beaver and others, “The Coral Sea Marine Reserve: Centre for Conservation Geography Report to the Australian Government’s Marine Reserves Review”, Version 1.0 ([Canberra], Centre for Conservation Geography, 2015), p.7. Available from http://conservationgeography.org/sites/default/files/CoralSeaMarineReserve_CCGReport_31_03_2015.pdf.

5   Commonwealth of Australia, 2012. Key Ecological Features. http://www.environment.gov.au/metadataexplorer/full_metadata.jsp?docld={093A2086-7DE3-41A7-B407-SBCCA7F400AS}&Ioggedln=false.

6   Beaver and others, Op. cit., p.4.

7   Ibid.

8   Nic Bax and Ian Cresswell, “Marine reserves not about closing fisheries, but about preserving ocean health”, The Conversation, 27 August 2012. Available from http://theconversation.com/marine-reserves-not-about-closing-fisheries-but-about-preserving-ocean-health-8936.

9   Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence: Coral Reef Studies, Coral Sea Marine Reserve Proposal, Submission to the Draft Commonwealth Marine Reserve Proposal for the Coral Sea (2012). Cited in Beaver and others, p. 27.

10   Beaver and others, Op. cit., p. 4.

11   Commonwealth of Australia, Completing the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network: Regulatory impact statement (Canberra, ACT, Australia, Marine Division, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012), p. 50. Available from http://ris.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2012/06/03-Completing-the-Commonwealth-Marine-Reserves-Network-RIS1.pdf. Cited in Beaver and others, Op. cit.,p. 15.

12   Commonwealth of Australia, A Guide to the Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia, IMCRA Version 4.0. (Canberra, Australia, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006). Available from https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/2660e2d2-7623-459d-bcab-1110265d2c86/files/imcra4.pdf. Cited in Beaver and others, Op. cit.,p.16.

 

Author bio:

Adele Pedder is Marine Campaign Manager at the Australian Marine Conservation Society.