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New report outlines causes of ocean decline and proposal for recovery

A new report by an independent global organization lays out an eight-point plan to reverse ocean decline and advance recovery of the high seas.

The Global Ocean Commission (GOC), an independent organization of prominent leaders from around the globe formed to develop feasible solutions for key challenges facing the high seas, yesterday issued its final report, “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean.” It outlines five drivers of ocean decline and an eight-part proposal to recover the high seas, an area of our oceans outside the jurisdiction of individual countries.

EDF applauds the commission for bringing high-level international attention to the important role oceans play in sustaining life on the planet, and we are pleased to see the optimism and solution-focus of the report.  The commission’s call to action must be heeded; recovery of the ocean is both possible and imperative to sustaining life on earth.

The GOC recognized that overfishing has been one of the primary drivers of ocean decline. Its recovery plan includes calls for reforming governance and management to address overfishing as well as eliminating harmful subsidies that often lead to too many fishermen chasing too few fish.

As the GOC points out, there is significant environmental and economic upside potential when fisheries are managed properly.  Both science and practical experience tell us that there are solutions that can be adopted to eliminate overfishing while empowering fishermen to be stewards of the resource they use. These solutions, such as secure access to a share of the global catch, coupled with science based limits on catch levels, can align economic and environmental incentives so that fishermen are motivated to fish more sustainably.

Subsidies that work against profitable and sustainable fisheries need to be ended, but the path to getting there isn’t always easy. Fishermen often depend on government support, and that support is often most needed when fish populations are collapsing. Governments can re-direct their funding to work with fishermen to develop solutions that will boost economic and ecological recovery rather than perpetuate collapse.

The EU’s new Common Fisheries Policy is a good example to follow. The policy and accompanying funding legislation, includes stronger sustainability requirements and redirects harmful subsidies to the improvement of fisheries management.  At last night’s event to celebrate the release of the GOC report, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, received a hearty round of applause for these reform efforts that she successfully led.

There is much work to do to ensure that the recommendations of the GOC report lead to real action by governments, businesses and NGOs around the world.  While the GOC has identified the high seas as the focus of their efforts, we hope that further cooperation by government, business and civil society can also address the management problems within countries’ own waters, where the majority of fish are caught.

By implementing the GOC’s advice and following suit to reform management in fishing nations’ waters, the world can in the near future enjoy thriving oceans that provide more fish in the water, more food on the plate and more prosperous communities.

 

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