A rescue package for the global ocean launched

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China Environment News, China

‘The estimates of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing including on EEZs is worth US$10 and US$23.5 billion annually. Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities, including plastics, fertilisers, garbage, and other hazardous substances.’ This is the conclusion of the proposals entitled From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean which put forwarded by the Global Ocean Commission on June 24th.  

Report calls on stimulating high sea recovery cycle

According to the Commission report, there are five key drivers of ocean decline, namely rising demand for resources, technological advances, decline of fish stocks, climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, and weak high seas governance.

The ocean covers nearly three-quarters of the surface area of our planet,and comprises 1.3 billion km3 of water. The livelihoods of 12 per cent of the world's population depend on the fishing sector. On average, 17 per cent of global animal protein intake comes from fisheries and aquaculture. Ocean fisheries and aquaculture provide food for billions of people as well as livelihoods for millions.

While our ocean is supplying various resources to human being, it is facing a cycle of declining ecosystem health and productivity. Habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification are pushing the ocean system to the point of collapse. How to conserve oceanic eco-systems as well as maintain sustainable usage of oceanic resources for the current and future generations, is a major task for ocean economy.   

To shift from continued decline to a cycle of recovery and urge nations to effectively protect ocean resources, the report put forward a package  of proposals. These proposals include: ensure that all fish stocks are being fished sustainably, protect vulnerable marine areas, reduce biodiversity loss, eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and reduce by 50% quantities of plastic debris entering the marine environment.

The report calls on ending illegal, unreported and unregulated(IUU) fishing and improving tracking capacity of fishing on the high seas. As the world’s single largest ecosystem, high seas ecosystems are estimated to be responsible for nearly half of the biological productivity of the entire ocean and play a central role in supporting all life on Earth. Nearly 10 million tonnes of fish are caught annually on the high seas, constituting over 12% of the global annual average marine fisheries catch of 80 million tonnes. The ecosystems of the high seas do not exist in isolation; they are the ecological hub of the entire marine ecosystem. The health of the high seas affects the whole global ocean.

Experts suggest on sustainable oceanic fishing

‘The major problems of oceanic fishery are less target fish net usage, imbalanced fish catch species structure, low cost utilization on nature resources, and insufficient fishery management’, Associate Professor Wang Yamin from Shandong University said. ‘Besides, marine pollution comes from aquaculture and other land-based activities seriously threaten coastal waters environment and marine biodiversity.’

Ocean is flowing, and extensively conducting international co-operation is an important measure of protecting China’s and global oceanic biodiversity.

Professor Xue Guifang from Shanghai Jiao Tong University suggests that all related parties and organizations should take steps to control and reduce land-based pollution, and improve China’s off-shore marine environment, so as to ensure long-term sustainability, so as to meet the needs of current and future generations.

As an early country imposing environmental impact assessment, most aquaculture actions have to pass EIA before getting aquaculture permit in Australia.    

Dr. Michael Fabinyi from James Cook University, Australia, recommended that China draw on Australian experience of aquaculture admittance mechanism, set up environmental monitoring mechanism and aquaculture ecological safety assessment mechanism, establish scientific aquaculture zoning areas, and strengthen aquaculture management.      

To effectively protect marine ecological environment, Wang Yamin suggested distinguishing traditional fishing and commercial fishing, implementing total fishing quota system (TAC), and levying fishing tax or environmental tax.