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DM Crumbliss for redOrbit.com
Scientists getting ready for the Rio +20 environmental conference have declared attempts to protect the world´s oceans a failure.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, heads of 192 governments came together to agree on key issues – including targets for protecting vulnerable species and marine habitats and managing fishing sustainably in national waters. Ten years on, none of these targets have been met, and in some cases the situation is worse than before.
Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation at the Zoological Society of London said, “Our analysis shows that almost every commitment made by governments to protect the oceans has not been achieved. If these international processes are to be taken seriously, governments must be held accountable and any future commitments must come with clear plans for implementation and a process to evaluate success or failure.”
Fish populations are dropping globally. The entire ocean ecosystem is at risk. High profile incidents like the collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery have done little to raise alarm. Formerly the largest cod population in the world, it has not recovered in 20 years.
Climate change, disease, and other pressures will have a huge impact on ecosystems already destabilized by overfishing, pollution, and other damaging activities.
A few isolated areas have seen improvement. The recent creation of very large marine reserves around remote islands such as the Chagos Archipelago, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and South Orkney Islands is encouraging, and there have been improvements to the fishing gear used in some areas to reduce their impact on seabird populations. In general, however, the situation remains critical, and there is little or no protection for vulnerable marine habitats which continue to be fished in destructive ways.
ZSL’s Marine Policy Officer Liane Veitch says: “There are large scale changes occurring in the oceans that weren’t known to be a problem in 1992 or 2002, such as ocean acidification or mass coral bleaching, which we now know will make sustainable ocean management even more challenging. Rio+20 might be our last real chance to save ocean ecosystems and make sure we can manage marine fish stocks in a sustainable way.”
The researchers have published their study in the June 15 issue of Science.