Ocean Conservation Progress 'Pitiful' Over Past 20 Years

NOAA National Ocean Service/CC BY-SA 2.0

We should all rightly congratulate Australia for creating the largest network of marine reserves in the world. However taken as a whole we're falling pathetically short of what needs to be done to protect oceans.

The Zoological Society of London calls the progress "pitiful."

BBC News quotes the director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London:

Our analysis shows that almost every commitment made by governments to protect the oceans has not been achieved. If these international processes are to be taken seriously, governments must be held accountable and any future commitments must come with clear plans for implementation and a process to evaluation success or failure.

The commitments referred to are those made at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and in subsequent years.

At that time it was pledged "to establish an ecologically sound network of marine reserves by 2012, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal fishing, protect critical habitat, look after the needs of local fishermen, and restore depleted stocks to healthy levels by 2015."

Our lack of progress: 1% of seas protected, subsidies contributing to illegal fishing still exist in many places, illegal fishing itself is rampant for many species (including critically endangered ones such as Atlantic bluefin tuna), in many places local fishermen displaced by industrial fishing.

ZSL does cite some areas that have improved:

The recent creation of very large marine reserves around remote islands such as the Chagos Archipelago, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and South Orkney Islands is encouraging, and there have been improvements to the fishing gear used in some areas to reduce their impact on seabird populations. In general, however, the situation remains critical, and there is little or no protection for vulnerable marine habitats which continue to be fished in destructive ways.

And yet when individuals and organizations such as Sea Shepherd step in to stop illegal fishing and illegal whaling, when government won't, they are the ones who are just as often vilified as they are praised.

We are indeed topsy turvy.

Tags: Conservation | Oceans | Rio+20