From Rio to Johannesburg:
Oceans Key to Fighting Poverty
DC - May 21, 2002 - Because of the importance of oceans
in the global economy and climate system, we will not achieve
lasting and sustainable development without healthy coasts
and oceans. Well-managed, productive fisheries play a significant
role in global economic development, food security, poverty
alleviation, trade, and human health. But since the Earth
Summit in 1992, most coastal resources have suffered from
overuse and degradation. Current efforts to protect coasts
and oceans will fail to achieve their full potential unless
they are better integrated in the broader social development
agenda that is the focus of the upcoming 2002 World Summit
on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
and marine resources provide rich assets for building a sustainable
world. The value of marine ecological goods and services is
estimated to be $21 trillion annually, 70 percent more than
terrestrial systems. One billion people rely on fish as their
primary source of animal protein, primarily in developing
countries. Some 90 percent of the world's commercial fish
are caught in coastal regions and along the continental shelves.
pressures on coastal resources are increasing rapidly. Nearly
half of humanitysome 2.8 billion peoplelives within
100 kilometers of a coast today, up from 2 billion in 1992.
Most of the world's mega-cities (more than 8 million residents)
are coastal. By mid-century, the number of coastal dwellers
is expected to swell to 6.3 billion people, some 75 percent
of the world's population. Coastal regions also support the
highest concentration of supporting infrastructure, manufacturing
facilities, energy use, tourism, and food production in the
world. Given their enormous economic and ecological value,
it is critical to protect these areas.
the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, scientists have recognized
that overfishing has become the major driving force behind
marine ecosystem collapse in many regions. The global fish
catch has stagnated since 1990. Seventy percent of fish stocks
are now fully- or over-exploited. Commercial fishing is also
grossly wasteful: in the process of harvesting 85 million
tons of fish each year, fishers routinely discard at least
20 million tons of “bycatch,” unwanted fish and
marine species that are usually killed.
the 1990s, the world's coral reefs took a serious beating.
Between 1992 and 2000, the share of coral reefs that has been
severely damaged from direct human pressures and global warming
climbed from 10 percent to 27 percent. And 60 percent of the
world's coral reefs could be destroyed by 2030 if ocean waters
continue to warm.
overfishing, and land-based activitieslike deforestation,
agriculture, freshwater diversions, and industrial developmentall
contribute to the degradation of valuable coastal habitats.
Half of the world's coastal wetlands have been filled in or
irreversibly altered by development.
impairment also has direct effects on human health. In developing
countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes and 90 percent
of sewage are released untreated into surface waters where
they pollute aquifers, freshwater resources, and coastal areas.
People develop an estimated 250 million cases of gastroenteritis
and upper respiratory diseases each year from swimming in
contaminated sea water. And toxic chemicals have contributed
to reproductive failure in marine mammals and health problems
in people who eat fish. (Two-thirds of marine mammals are
now classified as threatened species under the IUCN Red List.)
farming has increased fish yields while damaging coastal areas.
Since Rio, global aquaculture production has more than doubled,
from 15 million metric tons (MT) of fish in 1992 to 36 million
MT in 2000. About 40 percent of farmed fish are raised in
coastal and marine areas. These fish farming operations have
resulted in the destruction of mangrove swamps, the widescale
pollution from antibiotics and other chemicals, and the displacement
of traditional fisheries.
of the largest potential threats to all marine and coastal
resources is global warming. Global climate change will warm
average ocean temperatures, alter marine circulation patterns,
and affect marine biological productivity.
change will also contribute to rising sea levels, with the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting a one-meter
rise in sea levels during the next 80 years. Higher sea levels
increase the impact of storm surges, accelerate habitat degradation,
alter tidal ranges, change sediment and nutrient circulation
patterns, and exacerbate flooding.
sea levels will displace approximately one billion people
who live within a few meters of sea level. Many of these people
will be living in the poorest and most heavily populated countries
of the world.
have negotiated a number of strong, ecologically-based marine
agreements since Rio, including the U.N. Convention on Straddling
and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (hereafter, UN Fish Stocks
Agreement) and the Global Program of Action for the Protection
of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities. But
we are still far from putting these agreements fully into
practice around the world. Johannesburg offers a good opportunity
to build momentum to comply with these agreements, and to
highlight the importance of healthy oceans in addressing poverty,
food security, and population issues. To protect oceans and
coastal resources, we need to implement coastal management
programs, improve the management of fisheries, increase consumer
and business pressure for sustainable fisheries, and stop
Coastal Management Programs
17 of Agenda 21 and the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal
Biological Diversity of the Convention on Biological Diversity
called on countries to implement national plans to protect
coastal resources. While there has been progress in putting
these plans in place, half of the world's coastal countries
still do not have any type of coastal legislation in place.
And a majority of countries have no formal mechanism to
coordinate coastal and ocean issues, let alone to integrate
marine issues with land use, urbanization, and population
be effective, integrated coastal management should engage
local representatives from various sectors that affect coastal
areas, including tourism and agriculture, as well as underrepresented
stakeholders, especially women.
order to achieve the U.N. Millennium Declaration's goal
to cut in half the number of people living in poverty by
2015, the World Bank and foreign aid agencies should target
poverty reduction programs in growing coastal areas.
called for under the Jakarta Mandate, countries should work
to identify areas of high marine biological diversity, especially
coral reefs and threatened shallow waters, and enact regionally-based
networks of Marine Protected Areas.
should heed the Global Program of Action's call to voluntarily
improve sanitation and municipal wastewater management to
protect human health and coastal resources.
U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement came into force in December 2001,
but 15 of the top 20 fishing nations have not yet ratified
the agreement. It is critical that all distant-water fishing
nations ratify the agreement.
states should quickly implement the International Plan of
Action to Prevent Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing.
Countries must invest in better enforcement and monitoring
in international and territorial waters.
October 2001 Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries
and the 1995 Food and Agriculture Orgainization (FAO) Code
of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries both call for an ecosystem-based
approach to fisheries management. To meet this goal, fishing
nations should apply right-to-know principles to fisheries
recognition of the success of the 1991 U.N. Moratorium on
High Seas Driftnets, U.N. member states should limit other
types of damaging fishing gear, especially longlines and
industrial trawlers with high rates of bycatch.
countries should pressure the world's top fishing nations
to examine and phase-out $15 billion in annual fishing subsidies.
subsidies buy access rights for industrial country vessels
to fish in developing countries, where they often compete
with small-scale fishers. Developing countries should thus
negotiate stricter terms of access and prohibit entry altogether
where the resource is depleted.
Consumer and Business Pressure for Sustainable Fisheries
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and World Trade
Organization (WTO) should create a regime by which fish
that are independently certified as ecologically sound,
through groups like the Marine Stewardship Council, can
receive preferential treatment under bilateral trade agreements.
organizations should evaluate fisheries on whether they
are sustainably managed, in addition to the information
these groups already supply about chemical and biological
retailers, restaurant and aquarium suppliers, and consumers
should purchase ecologically-sound certified fish whenever