- Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
Input for the Zero Draft (Rio + 20) by OceanCare
OceanCare is a Non-Governmental Organization with a special consultative status at the ECOSOC and a founding member of the International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC), a partnership of more than 150 non-governmental organizations deeply concerned about the impacts of ocean noise pollution on marine ecosystems. At the invitation of the Second Preparatory Committee, the following is OceanCare?s input for inclusion in the compilation document that will serve as the basis for the zero-draft of the outcome document for UNCSD.
OceanCare looks forward to participating at the Rio+20 meeting and it is our view that the most important outcome of UNSDC will be agreement on a shared and holistic vision addressing current gaps in international law, including the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The future of humanity is inextricably linked to a healthy ocean. This fundamental fact should guide our every interaction with the seas. However, scientists instead warn that harmful anthropogenic impacts such as climate change, overexploitation, and pollution are causing a devastating loss of marine biodiversity. Similarly, the significance of healthy oceans to sustainable development and poverty eradication cannot be underestimated. The status quo threatens the ability of the oceans to maintain vital ecosystem services and food security for hundreds of millions of people. As several delegations recognized during the March 2011 PrepCom meeting, we should be concerned not only with creating a sustainable green economy but also one that recognizes the value of a strong blue ocean economy.
Rio+20 provides an ideal opportunity to set in place a framework to build a blue economy based on an understanding of the value of healthy oceans to humanity and to support strong governance to that end. At present, existing regulatory frameworks do not prove adequate enough to prevent pollution, degradation of habitats, loss of marine biodiversity, acidification and overexploitation.
Recognising this, OceanCare and IONC support the proposal put forth by a vast majority of States relating to the negotiations of an implementing agreement of the UNCLOS. Such an agreement would have the overarching goal of long-term conservation and sustainable management of marine life, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment. It would also provide an integrated framework for existing, new, emerging and intensifying uses and activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction including through the implementation of environmental impact assessments and marine protected areas. An UNCLOS implementation agreement could serve as an improved regulatory framework, inter alia, for the problem of increasing anthropogenic ocean noise pollution.
Anthropogenic noise levels in the marine environment are increasing at an alarming rate. In some areas, noise levels have doubled every decade for the past 60 years. There is mounting concern that noise proliferation poses a significant threat to marine ecosystems and the survival of marine mammals, fish and other ocean wildlife.
Marine animals use sound to navigate, find food, locate mates, avoid predators and communicate. Flooding their world with intense sound interferes with these activities and results in serious consequences. A growing body of scientific research confirms anthropogenic noise can induce a range of adverse effects in fish, marine mammals and other ocean creatures, from disturbance to injury and death.
According to the UN Secretary General, ?Ocean noise involves the introduction into the sea of sound generated by various human activities, including commercial and non-commercial shipping, air guns used to carry out seismic surveys, sonar, underwater detonations and construction and resource extraction. Over the last fifteen years, research has indicated that such noise has been impacting numerous species of marine mammals and fish, which depend on hearing for communicating and accomplishing other functions vital to their survival and reproduction. Impacts from ocean noise include mortalities, injuries, temporary and permanent hearing loss, disruptions in essential activities, habitat abandonment and loss of biodiversity, chronic stress, the masking of biologically important sounds and alterations in the behaviour of commercially harvested fish.?(A/66/70/Add.1 - 354)
Since 2005 the UN General Assembly has addressed noise through its annual resolutions on the law of the sea by recognizing the threat that ocean noise poses to marine biodiversity and encouraging further research and studies to better understand and minimize the impacts of ocean noise on marine living resources and on fishing catch rates. Other organizations addressing ocean noise include CBD, CMS, FAO, IMO and IWC at the global level, and Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS), Agreement on the conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) and the Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) at the regional level.
The International Ocean Noise Coalition and OceanCare believe that the commitment to an UNCOLOS implementation agreement is a tangible result that should be negotiated at the Rio+20 meeting. Using this new instrument, limitations of underwater noise in all oceans and seas at the international, national and regional level could be set and other mitigation measures to minimize acoustic pollution could be devised.
Another issue of concern for OceanCare is the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Since Rio+20 is expected to strengthen environmental governance, this conference should identify those organizations that need modernizing and work towards ensuring that they are viable into and beyond the 21st century. In light of ongoing discussions at the UN General Assembly on global governance, it would be appropriate to make sure that this body, which is the only one with a universal competence, is also involved in improving the current institutional framework, including in relation to environmental institutions. Admittedly, this would contribute to improving intra-institutional cooperation. Similarly, representation should also be guaranteed. There are currently still fora, including the IWC, where civil society, IGOs, NGOs and stakeholders are not invited to participate at a meaningful level. Governance is not effective if its exercise is not carry out by all the actors of the international community.
Rio+20 should also prioritize achieving coherence within the various multilateral environmental agreements and United Nations programmes. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for instance needs to intensify intra-institutional cooperation if it is to succeed in managing trade in those species that are listed in accordance with its provisions. Although there is little doubt that polar bears, for instance, are menaced by international trade in their skins, any action within the framework of CITES would deal only with this one threat to their conservation. However, this species is also threatened by climate change and loss of habitat. A synergy would hence be necessary to ensure that all the organizations with a mandate that is relevant for the conservation of polar bears are involved in a cooperative effort aimed at addressing protection of this species. Many other examples could similarly be provided. Thus, Rio+20 should look at the need for environmental governance from a holistic perspective and make sure that sufficient guidance is provided to the international community. The environmental pillar of sustainable development is as important as the social and the economic ones.