Rescuing the Global Ocean - Think Global, Act Local

1 September, 2014, Apia, Samoa - The Global Ocean Commission was presented for the first time in the Pacific at a panel discussion on the edge of the Third International Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Samoa.

The Parallel event hosted at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SRPEP) consisted of a panel that included the Minister Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism of Palau, Umiich Sengebau, the Senior Climate Policy Advisor to the Government of Tuvalu, Ian Fry, the Global Ocean Commissioner of Australia, Robert Hill, and the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Global Ocean Commission, Remy Parmentier.  

                        PanelPic
                                                                                      The Panelists 

The recently released report on the state of the global oceans - "From decline to recovery: A rescue package for the Global Ocean" was the topic for discussion.  Minister Sengebau confirmed Palau's declaration to ban commercial fishing from its extensive territorial waters stating, "the Pacific Ocean is the lifeblood of our societies and community.  Banning fishing is the bargaining chip we have at the table when we negotiate with the other countries."

                                 PalauMinister
             Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism of Palau, Umiich Sengebau

Mr Fry said that Tuvalu accepted the report and recommendations of the Ocean Global Commission, "although, I would like to have the issues of the shipment of nuclear waste, and ocean acidification to be addressed by the global community as well," he said, having unsuccessfully lobbied to have it included in the report.

                         MrIanFry
                     Mr. Ian Fry, Senior Climate Policy Advisor to the Government of Tuvalu

One of the Pacific's two Ocean Commissioners, Robert Hill, said that "sustainable oceans are possible." 

He acknowledged SPREP's progress from processes to implementation since his last visit here 15 years ago as the Minister of Environment for Australia, and commented on the great work the Secretariat was doing to promote the conservation of the Pacific Ocean through various programs including their waste management programs. 

                         MrRobertHill
                                 Mr. Robert Hill, Global Ocean Commissioner of Australia

Remy Parmentier reiterated the UN SIDS theme of partnership noting the Global Ocean Commission was a partnership of many organisations and people of note, who came together to form the commission, starting with Jose Maria Figueres, the President of Costa Rica, Trevor Manuel, former Finance Minister of South Africa, and David Millibrand, the former UK foreign secretary.

As the third of eight proposals for recovery, the commission seeks to classify fishing subsidies. 

"There is a general obligation by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to report on specific subsidies.  We need the WTO reports to confirm which subsidies are most harmful to the oceans.  Fuel subsidies that are provided to the fishing industry need to be revoked for high seas fishing," said Mr Parmentier.

From the report we learn that the global ocean covers nearly three quarters of the surface area of our planet. Comprising 1.3 billion square kilometres of water, it is the world's single largest ecosystem and plays a central role in supporting all of life on Earth.  It is also the provider of a wide range of services and resources that directly support human health, societies and economies.

The report outlines the five drivers of decline of Oceans are outlined in the report, the first being the rising demand for resources which include minerals and energy, genetic materials and living marine resources.

Technical advances come second in declining the health of our oceans through deep sea access and exploitation, distance and depth vessels, increased over extraction, and destructive fishing practices.

The decline of fish stocks is an effect and a driver of decline and includes over fishing, overcapacity and subsidies.

Climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss are the forth driver of decline and includes acidification and pollution.

The fifth driver of decline is listed as weak high seas governance having only patchwork, sectoral and incomplete governance allowing for non-compliance and a lack of enforcement to proliferate.

The eight drivers of recovery seek to address these declines over the next five years and were developed as follows:

·         UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for the ocean - putting a healthy living ocean at the heart of development

·         Governing the high seas - Promoting care and recovery

·         No more overfishing - ending harmful high seas subsidies

·         Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - closing seas, ports and markets

·         Plastics - keep them out of the ocean

·         Offshore oil and gas - establishing binding international safety standards and liability

·         Global Ocean Accountability Board - monitoring progress toward a healthy ocean.

·         Creating a high seas regeneration zone

Moving forward, all panelists urged governments, particularly the Pacific voices, need to be present at meetings and to raise their voices for the global community to hear their plight, at the upcoming meetings, including the SPREP meeting in three weeks, the climate summit also in three weeks, and the meeting of the implementing agreement in January 2015.

A petition will be presented to the UN general assembly in three weeks called Mission Ocean, and can be accessed via their website, www.missionocean.me.

The Global Ocean Commission proposals and their implications for Small Island Developing States, Think Global, Act Local event was held at SPREP on 1 September.
 
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