Four Countries Blocked Protection of the Oceans

Posted on 19 June 2012 by admin

By Julio Godoy

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 19 (TerraViva) – Three industrialised countries – the U.S., Canada and Japan – and Russia blocked a substantial advancement in the protection of the oceans at the U.N. conference on sustainable development here, according to environmental activists.

At this Bonaire reef, the olive-green coral is alive, but the mottled-gray coral is dead. Credit: Living Oceans Foundation/IPS

The final draft of the joint declaration to be approved by the plenary session of the Rio+20 conference expresses a general commitment to “protect and restore the health, productivity, and resilience of oceans”, but fails to directly address the most pressing issues of marine conservation.

These include an efficient governance regime for the high seas through the creation of marine protected areas, the reduction of fishing of endangered species, and the protection of the high seas from so-called bio-fertilisation, proposed by some scientists as way of stopping or reducing acidification of ocean water caused by climate change.

Another vital issue is guaranteed access and distribution of the benefits of marine resources among nations.

Scientists agree that marine biodiversity is severely threatened due to climate change, which is increasing acidification of seawater, overfishing, mostly by industrialised countries, and general pollution.

According to Susan Brown, director for global and regional policy at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), “four countries are to blame that the world did not advance in protecting the oceans.”

These four countries – the U.S., Canada, Japan and Russia – “blocked all attempts to reach an ambitious agreement on ocean protection”.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Brown told TerraViva.

Other experts shared Brown’s views.

Susan Lieberman, deputy director for international policy at the Pew Environment Group, said that the final declaration of Rio+20 “recognises that there are numerous pressing issues to resolve to guarantee the health of oceans, (but) at the same time asks for a couple of years to start doing something.”

“It’s a shame,” Lieberman added.

Susanne Fuller of the High Seas Alliance lamented that “no real commitment was made in Rio to protect the oceans.”

What the U.N. conference on sustainable development agreed upon “is to promise that it will see in three years time to decide whether or not to take action. We don’t have time for this nonsense,” she said.

Other scientists participating in Rio+20 elaborated on the worrisome state of the oceans. Axel Rogers, professor of marine biology at the University of Oxford, told TerraViva of recent personal research in the South Pacific.

“I have seen devastation beyond imagination,” he said. “Deep-sea trawlers using fine nets are simply destroying all marine soil and life. There are huge areas of the South Pacific ocean that are already deprived of any life.”

Even leaders of international institutions expressed their disappointment with the agreement reached in Rio on the protection of the seas.

Monique Barbut, retiring chief executive officer of the Global Environment Facility, the largest public financial institution for environmental projects, said she had a “reserved” opinion on the agreement, especially on ocean protection.

In many cases, she said, “only a zero moratorium on fishing and embargo on consumption” would allow endangered marine species, such as the Mediterranean bluefin tuna, to recuperate.

And such a zero moratorium is simply impossible – several member countries of the European Union, in particular France and Spain, would never approve it.

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