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UN Sea Law Needs Immediate Attention, says Conservation Group

by Ellen Hardy
12 December 2007, at 12:00am

GLOBAL - Twenty five years on from the launch of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the state of the worlds oceans has considerably deteriorated.

Overfishing has left most global fish stocks perilously close to commercial collapse whilst global warming is putting increasing pressure on fragile ecosystems, such as mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses, upon which so many people’s livelihoods depend.

“The need for nations to agree on urgent action has never been more acute,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the IUCN Global Marine Programme. “Measures introduced over the next few years will determine what the future will hold in terms of food security, species survival and the ocean’s ability to withstand climate change, and those measures have to include a robust network of marine protected areas, in national and international waters.”

IUCN is recommending a rapid acceleration in the establishment of marine protected areas to help the oceans become more resilient in the face of climate change. Currently only one percent of the oceans enjoy some level of protection, a long way short of the 10 per cent target the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity set itself to achieve by 2010.

“It is inconceivable that oceans, which provide livelihoods to so many people, do not have a better level of protection from destructive behaviour,” says Dr Harlan Cohen, IUCN’s representative at the UN General Assembly. “The combination of sustained over-exploitation and the highly disruptive impacts of climate change could have extremely grave consequences unless actions are taken. Now.”

IUCN is also being clear on the fact that increasing the number of marine protected areas, while essential, will not be enough in itself to restore the health of the world’s oceans and is therefore recommending a series of measures.

Among those, IUCN recommends that states work collaboratively to reduce fishing capacity and to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported and other unsustainable fishing activities. Proposals to mitigate or reduce carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere by transferring it to the ocean must be strictly examined in line with the aims of the Convention and of the London Convention and the London Protocol to ensure that these proposed activities do not harm the marine environment.

In addition, IUCN urges all states, individually and jointly, as appropriate, to put into practice decisive steps to assess and understand the impacts of human activities on the oceans in order to safeguard their health and resilience as well as the oceans’ ability to supply vital goods and ecosystem services to humankind.

Further Reading

- To view the full IUCN statement to the UN click here.

Ellen Hardy