Participate online in the Ocean Forum e-discussions!

Ocean Forum discussions launch

We’re pleased to invite you to participate in the Ocean Forum online discussions,  at the Ocean Action Hub. The discussions aim to engage stakeholders in assessing the challenges and opportunities related to delivering on SDG14 implementation in the run-up to The Ocean Conference. If you’re concerned about the Ocean’s future – as an activist, scientist or government representative – visit the Forum to join the discussions!

Facilitated by expert moderators from the United Nations and civil society, each discussion focuses on one of the agreed Partnership Dialogue themes and implementation of relevant SDG targets. The results will be shared with the conference co-facilitators, Member States and others as inputs into the Partnership Dialogues, Call for Action and Voluntary Commitments processes.


EU engages in negotiations to prevent unregulated fisheries in the Arctic high seas

The European Union participated in the first round of international negotiations on measures to prevent unregulated fisheries in the Arctic high seas took place between 19 and 21 April in Washington DC.
Commissioner Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “This is an important process and I’m happy it started on a good note, with all the parties agreeing on the need for precautionary measures. It will fill an important gap in the ocean governance system.”
At present no commercial fisheries take place in the Arctic high seas, but with the Arctic region warming at almost twice the global average rate and the sea ice cover shrinking, changes in fish stocks’ size and distribution may occur both in the exclusive economic zones of Arctic coastal states and in the high seas area of the Central Arctic Ocean. These areas could become attractive to commercial fisheries in the near future.
Faced with this possibility and aware that most of the Arctic high seas are not covered by international conservation or management regimes, the international community met in Washington from 19 to 21 April to start negotiating an agreement that would prevent the opening up of unregulated fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.
Delegations from Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of the Faroes and Greenland), the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States were present.
The second round of negotiations is to take place from 6 to 8 July 2016 in Iqaluit, Province of Nunavut, Canada.
This week’s meeting followed up on a first exploratory meeting held in Washington DC in December 2015.
The sound stewardship of the high seas areas of the Central Arctic Ocean has a prominent place in the EU’s Arctic policy, which advocates a responsible approach towards the Arctic marine resources while respecting the rights of the native communities.
Since 2009 the EU has strongly maintained that there should be no commercial fishing on the Arctic high seas before a science-based, precautionary management framework is in place. Commissioner Vella and HRVP Mogherini are set to present a new Integrated Policy for the Arctic on 27 April.
DG Mare Newspage

EU welcomes progress on new instrument to conserve marine biodiversity

The international community has taken a first step in developing a legally-binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Following two weeks of intensive negotiations, the first session of a United Nations preparatory committee tasked with elaborating this new instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has drawn to a successful close. Participants included representatives from most countries and regions, including the EU, as well as intergovernmental organisations, the business sector and civil society.
For the first time delegations discussed specific issues, including for example marine genetic resources, area-based management tools like marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, capacity building and the transfer of marine technology.
Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, remarked:
“The European Union has long championed the need for a new UNCLOS implementing agreement for biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and was consequently a key player at this meeting. This agreement will represent a major step forward in enhancing international ocean governance, a key priority of my political mandate. It will implement and strengthen UNCLOS and overcome the current fragmentation of the legal order of the oceans. It should also contribute to a more sustainable use of our ocean resources, in line with the UN’s recently adopted 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. I congratulate all participants on this constructive first meeting and encourage them to continue down the path of compromise and cooperation in order to achieve a universal agreement that will deliver healthy and productive oceans for current and future generations. The European Commission will continue to support this process, which we hope will lead to a formal intergovernmental treaty conference in 2018.”
The committee will meet again for a two-week session in August, with two further sessions planned for 2017.
DG Mare News webpage

The long and winding road continues: Towards a new agreement on high seas governance

logoiddriIDDRI’s latest publication, The long and winding road continues: Towards a new agreement on high seas governance, available here:  
The first session of the Preparatory Committee charged with developing elements of an instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) will commence on March 28 at UN headquarters.bThis publication is a detailed guide to the upcoming negotiations, useful for both newcomers and experienced participants. It provides some background on the law of the sea and current governance arrangements for ABNJ before discussing: gaps in the current framework; the history of the international discussions; State positions to date; and some challenges that may arise during negotiations. 

A much shorter Issue Brief of 4 pages is also available:

Commission publishes summary report on ocean governance consultation

Source: DG MARE

What can the EU do to promote the sustainable use of seas and oceans and preserve internationally shared marine resources? How can it help secure the conditions of sustainable blue growth? European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella today announced the results of a European Commission consultation on international ocean governance which took place from June to October 2015, alongside a ‘listening tour’ with stops in Portugal, Ireland, Malta, the United States, Norway, Chile, Spain and France, among others. Coastal & Marine (EUCC) contributed to this consultation.

The public consultation aimed at assessing the current ocean governance framework and the EU’s role in achieving better ocean governance worldwide. The Commission received over 150 replies from a variety of groups, the largest being public authorities (26%), citizens (19%), NGOs and businesses (each 17%).

For the vast majority of respondents, the current framework is not effective enough: we need better implementation of rules and better coordination between existing bodies, we need to fill existing legal gaps on exploitation and we need to improve ocean knowledge. Regional Seas Conventions and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations are invaluable, but could be strengthened. Existing agreements like the FAO Port State Measures Agreement need to be ratified for them to take full effect.

Respondents confirmed that the EU has an important role to play on the international scene to tackle these challenges, particularly by exerting its economic and political weight. The EU is already spearheading the global fight against illegal fishing, pushing for a new international legal agreement under the UN to preserve marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and promoting research cooperation through an Atlantic Ocean research alliance with the US and Canada (the ‘Galway declaration’).

The European Commission is grateful to all those who have taken the online survey on ocean governance and plans to follow it up with a political initiative on ocean governance in the coming months.


Read more

The Eye on Earth Summit (October 6 to 8, Abu Dhabi), The Oceans & Blue Carbon Special Initiative , and Data Innovation Challenges

By Magdalena A K Muir, Climate Editor

Following the 2011 inaugural Summit, the Eye on Earth 2015  promotes dialogue and drives international action that revolutionises the way collect, access, share and use data and information for real-world change. The 2015 summit will seek to foster a culture of collaboration through a network committed to achieving scalable impact for a sustainable future. Based on their focus on the Oceans and Blue Carbon initiative, the 2015 Summit is very relevant for coastal and marine areas.

The Oceans & Blue Carbon Initiative

  • Uses innovative technologies and Citizen Science techniques to develop dynamic habitat mapping and validation and upload tools to deliver timely, fit-for purpose, reliable and interoperable spatial datasets for mangroves, saltmarshes and sea grasses;
  • Develops internationally approved methodologies and data standards to meet the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) requirements for transparent, complete, consistent, comparable and accurate data;
  • Builds user communities, networks and local capacities to maximise the uptake of methodologies, data interoperability, and implementation and interpretation of carbon and ecosystem service assessments for management planning and knowledge sharing;
  • Integrates work across on-going and future activities in Blue Carbon on a global scale.
  • Increases usage of ecosystem based approached in coastal management and conservation, which maximise climate change mitigation and adaptation potential;
  • Reduces uncertainties and risk in trade-offs between development and conservation, particularly with respect to vulnerable populations; and
  • Develops greater local capacity to use market-based mechanisms as a source of sustainable financing for coastal management and conservation.

Stakeholders of the Oceans & Blue Carbon initiative include: Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), Global Environment Fund (GEF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNEP Global Resource Information Database (GRID) – Arendal, World Bank, Blue Ventures, Ecological Society of America (ESA), United States Geological Survey (USGS), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), Forest Trends, Open Oceans Global (OOG) and Conservation International.

Data Innovation Challenges

The organizers of the Eye on Earth Summit have  three data innovation challenges for which the finalists will have the opportunity to present their ideas at the Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The three competitions launched are the Data Innovation Showcase, Data Visualization Challenge and Blogging Competition, all of which support the Summit in its focus on using data to secure future for coasts, oceans and the planet..

Under the Innovation Showcase, citizen scientists are invited to create projects that use open data to: better manage food distribution and consumption, and reduce waste; support the health of forest ecosystems; and benefit urban biodiversity. According to the competition organizers, possible project ideas range from crowdsourcing data for tree inventories to creating a platform for getting excess food to people in need. Three finalists will be selected from this competition to present their work at the Summit, where a winner will be chosen.

Artists, designers and others interested in the creative display of data are invited to take part in the Visualization Challenge, which requires entrants to build visual interpretations of the social and economic impacts of poor air quality, oceanic warming and natural disasters. Participants can use images, animations, infographics, three-dimensional (3-D) models, computer simulations, interactive maps and diagrams, and other types of visualizations. One finalist will be selected to attend the Summit.

The Blogging Competition calls on writers and bloggers to submit a piece under the theme ‘A Better World through Knowledge and Information.’ The submissions are requested to be aimed at catalyzing the ‘data revolution’ by addressing how to improve data availability for a more sustainable future and healthier planet. The winner will report live from the Summit as the ‘Official Eye on Earth Summit 2015 Blogger.’ The selected finalists will have their airfare and lodging covered so they may participate in the Summit, which will take place on 6-8 October 2015, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Further information:

Eye On Earth

Renegade Fishing Trawler Considered the World’s Worst Poacher Stalked for 10,000 Miles by Sea Shepherd Ships

The Thunder, shadowed by the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon in the Sea Shepherd, in February 2015.

As the Thunder, a trawler considered the world’s most notorious fish poacher, began sliding under the sea a couple of hundred miles south of Nigeria, three men scrambled aboard to gather evidence of its crimes. In bumpy footage from their helmet cameras, they can be seen grabbing everything they can over the next 37 minutes — the captain’s logbooks, a laptop computer, charts and a slippery 200-pound fish. The video shows the fishing hold about a quarter full with catch and the Thunder’s engine room almost submerged in murky water. “There is no way to stop it sinking,” the men radioed back to the Bob Barker, which was waiting nearby. Soon after they climbed off, the Thunder vanished below.

It was an unexpected end to an extraordinary chase. For 110 days and more than 10,000 nautical miles across two seas and three oceans, the Bob Barker and a companion ship, both operated by the environmental organization Sea Shepherd, had trailed the trawler, with the three captains close enough to watch one another’s cigarette breaks and on-deck workout routines. In an epic game of cat-and-mouse, the ships maneuvered through an obstacle course of giant ice floes, endured a cyclone-like storm, faced clashes between opposing crews and nearly collided in what became the longest pursuit of an illegal fishing vessel in history.

The Thunder in the moments before it was swallowed by the ocean. Sea Shepherd crew members found signs that it had been intentionally scuttled.

Route from Left to Right

Further Information: NY Times Story