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Monday, 19 June 2006

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • Saving the soul of the sea (The Guardian)

  • UN warns urgent action needed to protect world oceans (MercoPress)

  • Time running out to curb effects of deep sea pollution, warns UN (The Guardian)

  • Action urged to protect deep seas (BBC)

  • Urgent action needed to conserve deep seas and open oceans: joint UN report (UN News Centre)

  • UN Bashing is Hardly Enough (TCS Daily)

  • Retailers to ‘face scrutiny over workers’ (Financial Times)

  • Desertification could uproot about 135m people: UN chief (Times of Oman)

  • Fighting desertification, saving livelihoods (The Financial Express)

  • Brazilian program against desertification is a global model (Brazil-Arab News Agency)

  • Conséquences alarmantes sur la santé et l’environnement (La Nouvelle)

  • Commémoration de la journée mondiale de lutte contre la désertification (Ami)

  • Die großen Fische verschwinden (Tagesspiegel)

Other Environment News

  • Meghji's environment friendly gift wrap (Tanzania Standard Newspaper)

  • Permafrost melt could speed up global warming (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Japan gains key whaling victory (BBC)

  • Japan Loses Bid to Resume Commercial Whaling (ENS)

  • China Tar Spill Threatens Water for Millions (Reuters)

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

  • ROAP

Other UN News

  • UN Daily News of 16 June 2006

  • S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 16 June 2006

The Guardian :Saving the soul of the sea

Saturday June 17, 2006

To many Japanese, whale meat occupies the same place in the national psyche as cod liver oil in this country: something children were forced to consume for their own good. As a result, the taste for whale has long since gone out of fashion in Japan. That makes it all the more remarkable that its government is willing to attract worldwide obloquy in its fetish for overturning the bar on commercial whaling that has been in place for the past 20 years.

This weekend the International Whaling Commission holds its annual meeting, and Japan appears to have cajoled a majority of member states - including the landlocked yet pro-whaling Mongolia - to pay their fees and turn up to support its pro-hunting position. Japan still cannot muster enough votes for the 75% margin needed to overturn the ban. But a simple majority allows it to tweak the rules and avoid condemnation of its "scientific" whaling, exploiting a loophole in the ban that Iceland also enjoys (the other whaling nation, Norway, never recognised the moratorium).

So the ban will stand for the time being, which is good news for one of the few sustained multilateral efforts to repair the environment. Since the moratorium came into force in 1986, several species of whales have edged back from the brink of extinction. But several others, such as Antarctic blue and north Atlantic right whales, remain in a perilous condition and show few signs of recovery. Moreover, estimating whale numbers is very difficult, although Japan has trumpeted figures to justify its hunting humpback whales for the first time this year.

For all the subsidies that Japan's government lavishes on its faltering whaling industry and its search for international allies, the danger is that its hunting will exacerbate the threat to species already facing a growing danger from the environment. Climate change is likely to disrupt their migration and breeding, while the increasing contamination of the oceans is suspected of causing harm. Then there are the whales killed every year by the hooks and nets of the world's fishing fleets.

As the UN environment programme reports, overfishing is becoming an international crisis. Agencies such as the UNEP are no match for the three million fishing vessels on the seas - leaving a quarter of the world's fish stocks in danger of being destroyed, while pollution, litter and deep-sea drilling all contribute to harming marine life. Protecting whales from hunting may still not be enough if all there is for them to swim in is a lifeless, toxic soup.


MercoPress UN warns urgent action needed to protect world oceans

Swift and wide ranging actions are needed to conserve the world’s entire marine environment amid fears that humankind’s exploitation of the deep seas and open oceans is rapidly passing the point of no return, according to a United Nations-backed report issued Friday that calls for urgent measures to conserve areas where more than 90% of the planet’s living biomass lives.
The new study, ‘Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas’, which was issued jointly by the UN Environment Programme and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), argues that the many lessons learnt on conserving coastal waters should be adapted and applied right across the marine world, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

"Humankind's ability to exploit the deep oceans and high seas has accelerated rapidly over recent years. It is a pace of change that has outstripped our institutions and conservation efforts whose primary focus have been coastal waters where, until recently, most human activity like fishing and industrial exploration took place,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director.

“We now most urgently need to look beyond the horizon and bring the lessons learnt in coastal water to the wider marine world," he added at the report’s launch in New York, which took place as countries and experts are holding talks on the law of the sea.

With more than 90% of the planet’s living biomass—the weight of life—found in the oceans, the report underlines the value of the deep seas and open oceans and highlights how science is only now just getting to grips with the wealth of life, natural resources and ecosystems existing in the marine world.

“Well over 60% of the marine world and its rich biodiversity, found beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, is vulnerable and at increasing risk,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, Acting Director General of IUCN.

“Governments must urgently develop the guidelines, rules and actions needed to bridge this gulf. Otherwise we stand to lose and to irrevocably damage unique wildlife and critical ecosystems many of which moderate our very existence on the planet.”

The report launched at the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea which feeds into the UN General Assembly, also highlights the way fisheries, pollution and other stresses such as those arising from global climate change are impacting and affecting the marine world.

Less than 10% of the oceans have been explored with only one millionth of the deep sea floor having been subject to biological investigations but the report states that over half – 52%-- of the global fish stocks are fully exploited. Overexploited and depleted species have also increased from about 10%in the mid 1970s to 24% in 2002.

“Once limited largely to shipping and open ocean fishing, commercial activities at sea are expanding rapidly and plunging ever deeper. Deep sea fishing, bio-prospecting, energy development and marine scientific research are already taking place at depths of 2.000 metres or more” says the report’s author, Kristina M. Gjerde, High Seas Policy Advisor to IUCN’s Global Marine Program.

Taking into account the discussions in various international meetings, she also outlines several options aimed at the conservation and sustainable management of the deep seas and open oceans. These include among other things, actions and measures that reflect an integrated approach to oceans management based on ‘ecological boundaries' rather than just political ones and giving higher levels of protection to vulnerable species like deep sea fish.

Other steps include the creation of a “precautionary system of marine protected areas” along with improved impact assessments that reflect the full range of possible human activities across the total marine environment.

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