Pew Environment Group
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Pew Environment Group
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Health (1 hits),

Full Submission

For more detailed background and analysis regarding ocean issues and Rio+20 please visit the links to our supporting materials below or visit our website

Ocean Earth: How Rio+20 Can and Must Turn the Tide

Rio+20: Time to Turn Back the Tide

An analysis of the gaps in the implementation of the ocean-related outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development


As the global population continues to rise, humanity?s dependence on healthy and productive ocean ecosystems will increase. Despite this dependence, governments continue to authorize activities that threaten the Health and productivity of the ocean. Overexploitation of fish stocks, destruction of marine ecosystems and a steady trend in biodiversity loss threaten the food security, economic stability and livelihoods of tens of millions. In spite of some fisheries management efforts, global fish stocks continue to experience serious declines, with some stocks on the high seas particularly at risk. Various measures to promote the protection of biodiversity on the high seas have been agreed to at the international level; however, the international community has largely failed to implement these measures. The international community must take urgent action to reform ocean governance to ensure the sustainability of global fish stocks and to ensure legal instruments are in place to facilitate the protection and long term sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This would include action at all levels as set out below:

Implement Previous Commitments

To address global gaps in ocean governance, the international community must recommit political will to implementing the commitments of the previous Earth Summits, the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Biodiversity Targets (CBD) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). (Please refer to our analysis of the gaps in the implementation of the ocean-related outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, at )

In particular, action must be taken at all levels to implement:

(a) The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) target to maintain or restore fish stocks to sustainable (MSY) levels by 2015; Page 2 of 4

(b) The JPOI target to address overcapacity by 2005;

(c) The JPOI target to address Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing by 2004;

(d) The JPOI and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) targets to eliminate harmful subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing by 2020;

(e) Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration to ensure that the right to development must be fulfilled as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations;

(f) Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration to ensure that precautionary management is utilized to avoid significant damage to the environment before it takes place;

(g) Principle 17 of the Rio Declaration to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs);

(h) The JPOI and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets to reduce global biodiversity loss;

(i) The JPOI and CBD targets to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including in particular marine reserves.

IUU Fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to undermine efforts to sustainably manage global fisheries. Countries heavily dependent on marine fisheries for food security and economic revenue, in particular small island developing States and coastal States, are impacted the greatest. In 2002 through the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), States committed to address IUU fishing by 2004. However, IUU fishing continues to be a significant issue threatening global fish stocks today. A 2011 report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has recognized the possible connections between international organized crime and illegal fishing. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) has also noted this possible connection and UNODC recognizes illegal fishing as ?environmental crime.? States must combat IUU fishing by taking action at all levels to:

(a) Implement effective monitoring, control, surveillance, compliance and enforcement measures to ensure that conservation and management measures are implemented and enforced;

(b) Recognize that illegal fishing is a criminal activity and often linked to organized crime; and ensure that appropriate resources are deployed to combat this form of crime; and

(c) Combat IUU fishing through the use of flag State, port State, national and market measures, particularly by encouraging States to become parties to the FAO agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, and by promoting timely implementation of this Agreement.

Shark Conservation

Shark populations have plummeted globally over the past several decades primarily due to overfishing and an unsustainable international trade in shark fins. Sharks? life history characteristics make them particularly susceptible to overexploitation and depletion. States agreed in Nagoya at the CBD Conference of the Parties in 2010 to sustainably harvest and manage fish stocks so that overfishing is avoided. States also committed to ensure that fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species. Recognizing these commitments and the depleted state of many shark populations, States should agree to take action at all levels to:

(a) Prohibit the take of threatened or endangered species of sharks that are listed as such by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or in national legislation.

Destructive Fishing Practices

Destructive fishing practices threaten deep sea fish stocks and vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) occurring in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Deep sea species are often slow growing, long lived and have low reproductive potential. These characteristics make them highly vulnerable to depletion by deep-sea fleets. Bottom trawling is particularly destructive to these ecosystems and species. Recognizing the devastation to deep sea ecosystems and fish stocks caused by bottom fishing practices, a number of international fora including the UNGA and the CBD have called on States to take action to prevent significant adverse impacts on biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. However, some countries continue to authorize their vessels to fish even though they have not effectively implemented the measures associated with these resolutions. Under the Rio Declaration, States recognized their responsibility to ensure that activities under their jurisdiction or control should not cause damage to the environment in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. To promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction States must take action at all levels to:

(a) End destructive fishing practices which damage vulnerable marine ecosystems and recognize that bottom fishing in violation of previous UNGA resolutions is IUU fishing and should cease immediately;

(b) Recognize that deep sea bottom trawling is the single most destructive fishing method on the high seas and agree to phase out this practice by 2015.

Science-Based Fisheries Management

In Johannesburg in 2002, States agreed to restore global fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015. However, stocks continue to be targeted at unsustainable rates. The FAO reported in 2010 that 85% of global fish stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion, --the highest percentage ever. Fisheries managers have all too frequently ignored scientific advice and failed to effectively implement internationally agreed precautionary management measures. This has contributed to a system of international fisheries management which continues to prove unable to reverse the precipitous decline in global fish stocks. States must take action at all levels to address these declines by agreeing to:

(a) Prohibit fishing in a given area or on a given stock if the fishery is not fully in accordance with relevant international commitments and resolutions and if precautionary, science-based management measures are not in place. These measures should include adequate bycatch mitigation measures.

RFMO Accountability and Transparency

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) are tasked with managing a significant proportion of commercial fishing operations occurring on the high seas. Despite having mandates to ensure the conservation of biological resources occurring within their areas of remit, RFMOs have often failed to implement sustainable management practices. RFMOs should be held accountable for their responsibilities. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has the responsibility to oversee international cooperation and development under the UN Charter. In the past, the UNGA has influenced progress towards achieving fisheries management goals associated with large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing and deep sea bottom fishing. This precedent should serve as a model for future action. To promote the conservation and long-term sustainable management of marine resources, States should take action to:

(a) Ensure transparency and accountability of RFMOs through UNGA oversight.

Marine Biodiversity Conservation

Under the Rio Declaration, States committed to implement precautionary management measures and to ensure the right to development is fulfilled as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations. However, marine biodiversity loss driven by anthropogenic activities is increasingly harming the ocean?s ability to provide vital services to humanity. Under the JPOI and MDGs, States agreed to targets to reduce global biodiversity loss. The rate of biodiversity loss is not slowing, but the tools to combat this problem have been identified by the international community and committed to in the Rio Declaration, JPOI and CBD targets. However, an adequate legal framework to effectively implement these tools is absent. In order to address these gaps in ocean governance, States should:

(a) Initiate a process towards a new implementing agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for the protection and conservation of high seas biodiversity. Current gaps which could be specifically addressed through an implementing agreement include:

a. Comprehensive prior EIAs and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs), together with ongoing monitoring of the marine environment;

b. Identification, designation and management of a global network of high seas MPAs, including in particular no-take reserves;

c. Implementation of the precautionary principle and ecosystem approach in decision making and fisheries management;

d. The reform of RFMOs to incorporate a broader ecosystem conservation focus;

e. Provision of access to and dissemination of information and transparency in decision making processes.
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