Cape Town - The oceans are in decline and “anarchy rules the waves”, according to a report by the Global Ocean Commission.
But there is hope if the world knuckles down and implements a rescue plan the commission calls “Mission Ocean”.
Trevor Manuel, former finance minister and one of the three chairmen of the commission, said this would require political will and bold leadership.
“Without proper governance, a minority will continue to abuse the freedom of the high seas, plunder the riches that lie beneath the waves, take more than a fair share, and benefit at the expense of the rest of us, especially the poorest. The costs of inaction are clear,” Manuel said.
The commission, comprising former heads of state, government officials and business leader, was established in February last year. It has investigated the decline of the global ocean and developed a “rescue package” of eight proposals.
It found the lack of high seas governance had led to the mismanagement of marine resources, and estimated that illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing on the high seas netted about $1.25-billion (R13.37bn) a year.
A major problem was that 10 countries doled out big government subsidies to their fishing fleets, which relied on the subsidies to remain profitable. The subsidies drove overfishing.
The engine power of the global fleet had grown 10 times since the 1950s. Because stocks had declined, boats needed twice as much energy to catch a ton of fish today as they did 60 years ago. Fuel subsidies accounted for between 15 and 30 percent of the subsidies.
Other problems were global climate change, rising demand for ocean resources, and technological advances that enabled boats to fish further, faster and deeper.
The commission proposed eight strategies:
l A UN sustainable goal that placed the ocean at the forefront of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.
l Proper high seas governance, with a new global agreement for the conservation and use of marine species; the appointment of a UN special representative for the ocean to co-ordinate all laws and agreements relating to it; and the creation of regional sea management organisations and ocean ministers at country level to create stronger co-ordination between ministries.
l The halting of overfishing by putting an immediate cap on fuel subsidies for high seas fisheries and eliminating them in five years.
l The elimination of illegal and unregulated fishing by implementing a range of measures, such as all vessels having to carry a unique identification number and transponders, a ban on the trans-shipping of fish at sea, and countries refusing illegal vessels access to ports.
l Adopting international binding protocols for safety and environmental standards for offshore oil and gas exploration, including provisions for emergency response.
l The establishment of a global ocean accountability board to measure global progress towards meeting goals to help oceans recover.
l Making the high seas a no-go area for industrial fishing if this board found oceans continued to decline.
l Co-ordinated action by governments, the private sector and the public to stop plastic from entering the sea.