Greenpeace today called on governments attending the biannual United Nations fisheries meeting in Rome this week to push for the implementation of a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40% of marine ecosystems as an essential way to restore health of global fish-stocks and to protect marine ecosystems.
This is a crucial week for Ministers and officials who have gathered from around the world for the largest global fisheries meeting in the UN calendar.
Against a backdrop of drastic declines in global fish stocks and with no sign of the threats to marine life diminishing, governments must take action this week and commit to overhauling their approach to fisheries and oceans management.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation recently warned that 77% of global fish stocks are fully or over exploited.
Demand for fish is increasing, illegal and unregulated fishing is expanding as industrialised fleets move into areas where regulations do not exist or are weak, and even in areas that have fisheries regimes operating, stocks of commercial species, such as bluefin tuna, are close to collapse.
“It’s time to make a radical change to the way our oceans are managed, thinking about the whole marine environment, not just a particular species” said Greenpeace International campaigner Sari Tolvanen.
“Marine reserves are the only way to protect and restore the marine environment and to allow exploited fish stocks to recover”.
Apo Island Marine Reserve is one of the best-known examples of marine protection in the Philippines. Studies have shown the benefits of the reserve for conservation and for local communities.
It has seen a seven-fold increase in large predatory reef fish after 11 years of protection. Large no-take marine reserves on the high seas would deliver the same benefit to commercial fisheries.
Putting large areas of ocean aside from all extractive uses, such as fishing and mining, can result in long lasting and often rapid increases in marine populations, their diversity and productivity – of significance to the millions of people who depend on sustainable fish resources.
Greenpeace is calling for Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and governments to take much stronger action on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, to stamp out pirate fishing and to ensure trade in fish products does not result in further depletion of these resources.
But in the face of such slow progress on IUU fishing, and expanding pressure on fish stocks, governments must fundamentally change the way they protect life under the sea. Otherwise future generations will not enjoy either the beauty or the bounty of our oceans.
“Protection of ocean ecosystems is crucial for the millions of people who are dependent on them for their livelihoods, particularly local fishers and communities for whom fish provides not just an income, but also a source of food,” said Sebastien Losada.
“The best way to protect our ocean resources, both for their intrinsic value but also the value they provide to those communities dependent on them, is to create marine reserves.”