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Big Wave of Support for Our Oceans

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Tempo.co) Posted for media use

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Tempo.co) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

NUSA DUA, Bali, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Financial contributions are rolling in to fund dozens of initiatives aimed at healing and protecting the oceans at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference held on the Indonesian island of Bali October 29-30.

Our Ocean, Our Legacy is the theme of this year’s Our Ocean Conference, reflecting human choices and actions to maintain the sustainability of ocean resources and to preserve our ocean’s health as a heritage for future generations.

Opening the conference Monday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his government has met its commitment of conserving 20 million hectares of territorial seas two years earlier than the projected date of 2020.

“We must be brave in making commitments and in undertaking concrete actions that start from each of us,” President Widodo said in his opening address.

He said Earth’s maritime resources are valued at an estimated US$24 trillion.

In recognizing the importance of oceans to many lives and the future of the Earth, the president listed the challenges – illegal unregulated and undocumented (IUU) fishing, piracy, human trafficking, drug smuggling, pollution and slavery.

Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows about 26 million tons of fish worth US$10-23 billion have been caught illegally per year, Widodo said.

He worries that unless overlapping maritime claims are resolved through negotiations and based on international law, they may pose a threat to stability.

The president is concerned about ocean health. “Our ocean is threatened by plastic debris, water pollution, destruction of coral reefs, warming of sea temperature, the rise of sea-levels, and so forth,” he said.

“Do not be too late to take actions in protecting our ocean. One single country cannot resolve the challenges alone,” said Widodo. “All countries must collaborate in tackling the problems and in optimizing the benefits of the oceans for common good.”

The European Union made 23 new commitments at the conference, announcing €300 million of EU-funded initiatives. They include projects to tackle plastic pollution, make blue economy more sustainable and improve research and marine surveillance.

This contribution comes on top of the over €550 million committed by the European Union, when it hosted the Our Ocean conference last year in Malta.

“The state of our oceans calls for determined global action,” said High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini. “With 23 new commitments, the European Union stays engaged to ensure safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans.”

“No country can succeed alone in this endeavour,” said Mogherini. “It requires determination, consistency and partnerships, within and outside our European Union, and it is in this spirit that today we renew the commitment to protect our oceans.”

The European contributions include €100 million for R&D projects to tackle plastic pollution and €82 million for marine and maritime research, such as ecosystem assessments, seafloor mapping and innovative aquaculture systems.

The new EU action also includes a €18.4 million investment to make the European blue economy – the economic sectors that rely on the ocean and its resources – more sustainable.

European Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said, “We need the oceans and the oceans need us. We have to urgently reduce marine litter and other sources of pollution, halt illegal fishing and support fragile marine ecosystems. We have to develop our blue economy – create sustainable jobs and growth – supported by cutting-edge research and new technologies. It is for this reason that we are making these commitments.”

The EU’s showpiece Earth observation program Copernicus is high on the list of new commitments. The program’s support will be enlarged with another €12.9 million for maritime security and for research dedicated to coastal environmental services, in addition to the €27 million Copernicus funds devoted at Our Ocean 2017 conference.

With its Maritime Surveillance System, Copernicus has supported EU commitments to reinforce maritime security and law enforcement.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska said, “Earth observation helps citizens around the globe to fight climate change, monitor the blue economy and marine pollution or to manage natural disasters.”

Marine litter in China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, will be fought with a €9 million EU-funded project. Another €7 million will go towards protection of marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

As one of its commitments, the European Commission is joining forces with United Nations Environment Programme and other international partners to launch a coalition of aquariums to fight plastic pollution.

EU Delivers on 2017 Ocean Commitments

Two years ahead of the initial deadline set, 10 percent of all EU waters have already been designated as Marine Protected Areas. With effective management, adequate funding and robust enforcement, Marine Protected Areas can have both conservation and economic benefits.

The 2017 Our Ocean conference in Malta was a game changer, mobilizing funding and ocean action at an unprecedented scale.

The European Union has already delivered on almost half of EU’s 35 commitments made at the last year’s conference, equalling €300 million.

The EU is now working with Indonesia and future hosts of Our Ocean conferences to keep the momentum going for cleaner and safer seas.

Previous conferences, hosted by the governments of Malta (2017), the United States (2014, 2016) and Chile (2015), have seen a wide range of commitments and billions of euros pledged.

The commitments are only one of the ways by which the European Commission works to accelerate the shift towards circular economy.

On January 16 the EU adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

On May 28 new EU-wide rules were proposed to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The European Parliament endorsed the proposal on October 23. The endorsement was accompanied by the “Ready to change” awareness-raising campaign supported by many aquariums.

Bloomberg and Dalio Give US$185 Million

In a video message at the Our Ocean Conference, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg and OceanX , founded by Dalio Philanthropies President Ray Dalio, announced their new partnership to align and increase their support for the oceans.

Bloomberg and OceanX’s first joint project will be an expedition to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on OceanX’s marine research and exploration vessel, the Alucia, to explore the region, demonstrate the importance of the marine national monument and illustrate the need for marine conservation across the globe at a time when the oceans require our critical attention.

The effort will be seeded by a combined four-year commitment of over US$185 million.

“More than three billion people depend on the oceans for food and their livelihoods. That means threats to marine ecosystems – like climate change and overfishing – also threaten lives around the world,” said Bloomberg. “We’re teaming up with OceanX to ensure that ocean conservation receives the attention it deserves.”

Focusing on key coral geographies and top fishing nations, over the next four years Bloomberg will support data-driven strategies in fisheries management, coral conservation and pollution reduction in 10 priority countries –  Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, and the United States. The initiative will promote global action with government leaders, the private sector, and key NGO partners.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper commented, “The Our Ocean Conference provides a crucial forum for raising concern about the plight of the world’s marine realm and exploring ways we can protect this vast but limited source of biodiversity and sustenance.”

The nonprofit WCS is a partner of Bloomberg Philanthropies “Vibrant Oceans” coral reef initiative to protect a portfolio of reefs most likely to endure warming ocean temperatures.

“Protecting the health and vitality of coral reefs, among the most biodiverse habitats on earth, is crucial to conserving the earth’s marine biodiversity,” Samper said. “Over the next four years, WCS will leverage its scientific and conservation expertise to conserve coral reefs in nine sites in the coastal waters of Fiji, Indonesia, and Tanzania, hardy ecosystems that were chosen because their reefs exhibit a resilience to increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change.”

At the same time, WCS will work with communities and national authorities in these and other countries to strengthen monitoring, governance and build effective policies for managing coral reefs over the long term.

“Crucial to saving the world’s coral reefs will be successful partnerships with local community residents who rely on marine resources for health and well-being,” said Samper.

“WCS will continue to work with local partners to identify and reduce threats to reefs while maintaining livelihood options and food security for coastal towns and villages. By taking action at both regional and local levels, we can help preserve the ocean as an irreplaceable natural legacy for future generations.”

Young People Take Part in Ocean Solutions

The 2018 Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit was held on October 29-30 at the Tanjung Benoa Hall of the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

The summit was attended by 189 participants aged 17 to 35 who hail from 52 countries. They were selected from 500 candidates representing 56 countries.

The event featured seminars and interactive discussions at the breakout room, focusing on areas of action such as sustainable blue economy, marine pollution, marine protected areas and maritime security.

Featured Image: Surfing Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia, May 29, 2018 (Photo by Wavehaven) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Tennessee River Microplastic Soup Shocks Scientists

Looking north from the top of Lookout Mountain over the Tennessee Valley, the Tennessee River winds through the city of Chattanooga, March 31, 2018 (Photo by GT Photos) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Looking north from the top of Lookout Mountain over the Tennessee Valley, the Tennessee River winds through the city of Chattanooga, March 31, 2018 (Photo by GT Photos) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee, October 11, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Dr. Andreas Fath, professor of medical and life sciences at Germany’s Furtwangen University, broke a world record in 34 days this summer by swimming all 652 miles of the Tennessee River, from its headwaters in Knoxville, Tennessee, to its mouth in Paducah, Kentucky.

He was determined to perform the first comprehensive analysis of the Tennessee River’s water quality, and his swim turned out to be the most extensive interdisciplinary water quality survey ever conducted of North America’s most biologically diverse river.

Breaking world swimming records is familiar territory to Dr. Fath, who in 2014 broke the world record for speed swimming the Rhine River from the Swiss Alps through Germany to the North Sea.

In 2014, Fath and his team of scientists analyzed the Rhine for more than 600 substances and found that concentrations of persistent pollutants increased as they moved downstream.

“We found the great blockbusters in the Rhine,” Fath says, “from artificial sweeteners to residues of dishwasher tabs.” This means that many substances we use in our everyday lives survive wastewater treatment and end up in waterways.

Nicknamed TenneSwim, Fath’s second swim for science revealed the high concentration of microplastics in the Tennessee River, summer 2018 (Photo courtesy Tennessee Aquarium) Posted for media use.

Nicknamed TenneSwim, Fath’s second swim for science revealed the high concentration of microplastics in the Tennessee River, summer 2018 (Photo courtesy Tennessee Aquarium) Posted for media use.

This summer, Dr. Fath was able to compare the Tennessee River’s water quality to what he found in Germany’s Rhine River four years ago.

The levels of some chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, were lower in the Tennessee than in the Rhine.

The Tennessee River appears cleaner than the Rhine in some ways. When Fath emerged from the Tennessee after 34 days of swimming, he was free of infections, despite swimming with open wounds. By comparison, during his 2014 swim of the Rhine, Fath became sick with nausea and diarrhea from an infection.

Fath and his team found large quantities of microplastics in the Rhine. But the high levels of microplastic pollution in the Tennessee River set all his alarm bells ringing.

Fath collected samples from the Tennessee River with microplastic concentrations 8,000 percent higher than those found in the Rhine.

The levels of microplastic on the surface of the Tennessee were also 80 percent higher than in China’s Yangtze River, which a recent study found to be the source of 55 percent of all river-borne microplastic entering the ocean.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles less than five millimeters in diameter. They easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in rivers and eventually in the oceans, posing a potential threat to aquatic life.

Aquatic birds and animals can mistake microplastics for food. Ingesting the tiny particles can prevent some species from consuming their natural prey, leading to starvation and death. Microplastics also have been found to cause reproductive complications in oysters.

Pollutants such as pesticides and manufacturing chemicals can adhere to microplastic particles and bioaccumulate in aquatic life, according to Adventure Scientists, a nonprofit based in Bozeman, Montana that has amassed one of the largest and most diverse global microplastic pollution datasets, called the Global Microplastics Initiative.

“I did not expect such high levels of microplastics. Therefore, we triple-checked the results,” Fath says of the Tennessee River. “By looking for a reason, we rather quickly made a plausible guess.”

Despite the similar length of the Rhine and the Tennessee, he says, the dramatic difference between the levels of microplastic is likely due to differing approaches to waste management and recycling.

Analysis of Fath’s water samples from the Tennessee River suggests the primary source of microplastic pollution there is not from microbeads, minute plastic spheres found in many cosmetic products and a primary source of microplastic pollution worldwide.

Instead, Fath says the high levels are a byproduct of decomposition from large plastic waste in landfills.

“In Germany, plastic waste is collected separately, and then it’s combusted, recycled or exported to other countries like China, Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia,” he says. “In the states bordering the Tennessee River, plastic waste is going to landfills. More than 100 million straws each day are going to landfills.”

“Once the land is filled with plastic waste, it breaks up, step by step, with the help of microorganisms, ultraviolet light and mechanical forces,” says Fath. “At the end of the day, the plastic is flushed into rivers as secondary microplastic.”

River-borne microplastic is a major contributor to microplastic in the oceans.

Overlooking the Tennessee River at Signal Mountain, October 18, 2016 (Photo by csm242000 Photography) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Overlooking the Tennessee River at Signal Mountain, October 18, 2016 (Photo by csm242000 Photography) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

“By some measures the Tennessee River appears to have fairly good water quality. The high levels of microplastic particles are the real shocker,” says Dr. Martin Knoll, professor of geology and hydrology at Sewanee: The University of the South.

“A major contributing factor must be the abundant plastic waste we all see on roadsides,” said Dr. Knoll. “This plastic can easily make its way underground through the porous limestone and quickly move into the river.”

If the rate of microplastic entering the oceans is left unchecked, scientists predict there could be more plastic particulate than fish in the oceans by 2050.

One of Fath’s many sponsors is the Tennessee Aquarium, situated on the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, and a member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership. This consortium of 22 aquariums was formed last year to take the lead in combating microplastic pollution by eliminating single-use plastics in their operations and encouraging similar lifestyle changes in their visitors.

“We hope that, through our own efforts to stem the tide of microplastics, all of our guests will look for ways they can join us in reducing the amount of plastics in our aquatic environments,” says Dr. Anna George, the Tennessee Aquarium’s vice president of conservation science and education. “The solution to plastic pollution is in our hands.”

Given the levels of microplastics and the presence of industrial chemicals that have been outlawed in Europe for years, the Tennessee River is not healthy for the aquatic species that live in the waterway and its many tributaries.

“Based on the findings, it is not a healthy river at all,” Fath says. “The microplastic concentration, together with the chemical cocktail found in the river, is not a good combination for aquatic life in the Tennessee River.”

More than 1,400 aquatic species live in waterways within a 500-mile radius of Chattanooga. The Tennessee River and its many tributaries are inhabited by more than 230 fishes. There are more than 100 freshwater mussels, and more than 70 crayfishes – 90 percent of all American mussels and crayfish species.

The watershed holds more than 150 turtle and more than 50 salamander species – 80 percent of North America’s salamander species and half its turtle species. Many communities rely on the Tennessee River for drinking water, including Chattanooga, Knoxville and Huntsville.

Fath says the ecological damage to the Tennessee River could still be curbed. He suggests implementation of a treatment step in sewage plants to reduce the release of trace substances and legislation to reduce and control release limits for industries, agriculture and hospitals.

To curb the pandemic of microplastic pollution, he suggests encouraging wider scale adoption of recycling programs and a nationwide reduction in the use of single-use plastic items like shopping bags and straws.

“Plastic is a smart and important material in industries with a lot of economic benefits,” Fath says. “We appreciate its durability, but it is madness to use this non-degradable material for packaging of articles which are only used for minutes or hours. If we do not change that, we are going to wrap up the world with plastic.”

Featured Image: The Tennessee River as it flows through Chattanooga, Tennessee, April 3, 2010 (Photo by csm242000 Photography) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Two of the world’s largest ocean economies – the European Union and China – have agreed to work together “to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy,” the Council of the European Union announced after the unique ocean partnership agreement was signed.

The pact was signed in Beijing at the 20th EU-China summit on July 16 by leaders at the highest level from both governments.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the summit. President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker represented the European Union. And the EU leaders had talks with President Xi Jinping as well.

The leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying in a joint statement that, “This has greatly enhanced the level of EU-China relations, with fruitful outcomes achieved in politics, economy, trade, culture, people-to-people exchanges and other fields.”

Following the summit, Presidents Tusk and Juncker and Premier Li agreed the joint statement and the annex on climate change and clean energy.

President Juncker said, “Our cooperation simply makes sense. Together we account for around a third of the global economy. Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day.”

The leaders agreed to promote “the circular economy within the blue economy” based on “clean technologies and best available practices.”

The partnership contains clear commitments to protect the marine environment, tackle climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The leaders reaffirmed the importance of fighting climate change. All said they are committed to advancing cooperation on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and fully support this year’s UN climate summit, the 24th, known as COP24, which is scheduled for December in Poland.

China, the EU and its Member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and stated that they “respect the maritime order based on international law.”

The EU said it welcomes the ongoing consultations between China and ASEAN countries aimed at the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

The South China Sea disputes involve island and maritime claims among: Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters, conducting “freedom of navigation” operations there.

The EU and China jointly called upon “all relevant parties” to engage in dialogue, to settle disputes peacefully, and refrain from actions likely to increase tensions.

The EU and China say their goal is “to promote peace, security and sustainable development.” To that end, they have agreed to foster closer business-to-business interaction and exchanges of information among stakeholders such as enterprises, research institutes, financial institutions and industry associations.

Cooperation will extend to improving knowledge of the oceans through “better ocean literacy, enhanced ocean observation and open science and data.”

In their joint statement, the leaders welcomed “the increase in high-level contacts on environmental protection and natural resource conservation, and the importance of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda, in particular on issues such as pollution prevention and control, biodiversity conservation, CITES implementation and enforcement and wildlife trafficking, and elimination of illegally harvested timber from the markets, as well as desertification and land degradation.”

The two sides welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution titled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” and look forward to the presentation of a report by the Secretary General in the next General Assembly as a basis for further work.

The EU and China will work together actively with a view to achieving the preservation of biodiversity. The EU welcomes China’s commitment to organize COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, which should mark the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

The two sides agreed on the transition to a circular economy as a priority for their cooperation, recognising the contribution of resource efficiency to meeting climate and sustainable development targets and agreeing to enhance cooperation and support joint actions in this field.

To formalize this aspect of their relationship, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, thus establishing a high level policy dialogue.

Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening EU-China cooperation on water in the framework of the EU-China

Water Policy Dialogue, and acknowledged the role of China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in supporting the implementation of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU-China partnership agreement sets out general lines for future collaboration in areas such as:

  • the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas
  • the fight against marine pollution including marine plastic litter and micro-plastics
  • the mitigation of and adaption to climate change impacts on oceans, including the Arctic Ocean
  • the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources
  • fisheries governance in regional and global settings and the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The agreement pleases EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who is responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

“With the partnership signed today, the European Union and China are stepping up their joint efforts, towards a more sustainable future for our oceans and the millions that make their living from them,” he said.

“Across the world, I see growing awareness of the need for joint solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and seas,” said Vella. “From cleaning up plastic pollution to tackling overfishing, no one country or continent can shoulder these colossal tasks on their own.”

Featured Image: Striped dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lajes do Pico in POrtugal’s Azores Islands, August 15, 2013 (Photo by Tim Ellis) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Europe Bans Plastics for Ocean Health

Plastic fishing gear and strapping litters a beach in northern Norway, which is not an EU member state. April 27, 2014 (Photo by Bo Eide) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Plastic fishing gear and strapping litters a beach in northern Norway, which is not an EU member state. April 27, 2014 (Photo by Bo Eide) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Beachgoers love to have fun in the sun, eating, drinking and smoking all the while, but the plastic food and drinks containers, straws, cigarette butts and plastic carrier bags they use just once are littering oceans and seas and piling up on coastlines.

Plastics can be carried by wind and rain into drains or rivers that flow into the sea. Plastics can blow away from landfills and end up in rivers or oceans.

A member of the Gullane Beaver Scout Group finds cotton buds with plastic stems on Scotland's Gullane Beach, January 11, 2018 (Photo by Scottish Government) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A member of the Gullane Beaver Scout Group finds cotton buds with plastic stems on Scotland’s Gullane Beach, January 11, 2018 (Photo by Scottish Government) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Now the European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Announcing the new rules on Monday, EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly. Single use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives.”

“This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

“Our collection target for plastic bottles will also help to generate the necessary volumes for a thriving plastic recycling industry,” said Katainen, who hails from Finland on the Baltic Sea, where waste generated by recreational and tourism activities is piling up.

With the new rules, Europe is tackling the 10 plastic waste items most found on Europe’s beaches and promoting sustainable alternatives.

If the proposed rules become law, there will be a plastic ban on products where alternatives are readily available and affordable. The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks, and for balloons, which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead.

These 10 types of items together account for 70 percent of the marine litter in Europe.

  1. Cotton buds: Ban on single use cotton buds made with plastic, to be replaced on the market with sustainable alternatives.
  2.  Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers: Ban on single use cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers made with plastics, to be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.
  3. Sticks for balloons and balloons: Plastic sticks for balloons to be banned and replaced with sustainable alternatives. On balloons, producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection, waste treatment and introduce new labelling on the environmental impact of the product and recycling options for consumers.
  4. Food containers: Significant national consumption reduction of plastic food containers. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment.
  5. Cups for beverages: Significant national consumption reduction of plastic cups for beverages. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment.
  6. Beverage bottles: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of beverage containers; product design requirements to attach caps and lids to beverage containers; 90 percent separate collection target for plastic bottles. Member States will be obliged to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example, through deposit refund schemes.
  7. Cigarette butts: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, cleanup, collection and waste treatment of cigarette butts and other plastic tobacco product filters.
  8. Bags: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of lightweight plastic carrier bags, in addition to existing measures in the existing Plastic Bags Directive.   After addressing plastic bags in 2015, 72 percent of Europeans said they have cut down on their use of plastic bags, according to Eurobarometer.
  9. Crisp packets/sweets wrappers: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of plastic packets and wrappers.
  10. Wet wipes and sanitary items: New labelling requirements for sanitary towels and wet wipes to inform consumers on environmental impact of the product and how to dispose of it properly. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of wet wipes.
  11. Fishing gear: For fishing gear, which accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter, the Commission aims to complete the existing policy framework with producer responsibility schemes for fishing gear containing plastic.

Producers of fishing gear containing plastics will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment. They will also cover the costs of awareness-raising measures.

The Commission reasons that the new rules will give companies a competitive edge. Having one set of rules for the whole EU market will create a springboard for European companies to develop economies of scale and be more competitive in the booming global marketplace for sustainable products, the Commission said in a statement.

By setting up re-use systems, such as deposit refund plans, companies can ensure a stable supply of high quality material.

In other cases, the incentive to look for more sustainable solutions can give companies the technological lead over global competitors.

The packaging producers, on whose cooperation the success of these new rules depends, appear to be on board.

Kristian Hall, president of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment , said on May 23, “Our industry is committed to supporting increased recycling of its packages and securing long-term sustainable recycling solutions. Hence, the members of ACE, BillerudKorsnäs, Elopak, SIG Combibloc, Stora Enso and Tetra Pak, have decided to launch a dedicated platform to drive and coordinate the industry’s engagement in beverage carton recycling, including the non-paper components of our packages across Europe.”

The new platform will be based in Frankfurt, Germany. It will collaborate with national carton industry associations, member company initiatives and other stakeholders.

Hall said, “Recognizing that sustainable recycling programs require collaboration within and beyond our own industry, the new platform will actively seek alliances and partnerships with industry actors sharing similar needs to optimize recycling solutions.”

All the materials used in beverage cartons are recyclable. Recycling beverage cartons reduces carbon emissions and enables a better use of raw material resources.

Recycling of beverage cartons in Europe (EU-28) has grown steadily over the last years, with around 430,000 tonnes recycled in 2016. This represents a rate of 47 percent of all cartons sold in Europe being recycled, with some countries like Belgium or Germany having rates over 70 percent.

PlasticsEurope, an association of plastics manufacturers, says it has been “at the forefront of the fight against marine litter and is fully committed to helping put an end to the leakage of plastics into the environment.”

But PlasticsEurope is against plastic product bans. The association says, “…plastic product bans are not the solution and will not achieve the structural change needed to build the foundation for a sustainable and resource efficient economy; as alternative products may not be more sustainable.”

To reduce littering, PlasticsEurope wants governments to integrate the issue of marine litter in their national waste management strategies. It says waste management infrastructure needs to be improved so that all plastic waste is collected and then used as a resource. Landfilling has to be avoided.

PlasticsEurope supports innovation and mindful product design and also supports awareness-raising campaigns, “which lead to responsible consumption and an understanding that waste is a resource.”

Together, the new rules are expected to put Europe ahead of the curve on a big issue with global implications.

The EU’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “This Commission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States. Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food.”

“Today’s proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures,” said Timmermans. “We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favorite products.”

Featured Image: Plastic litters a beach on the Atlantic Ocean at Igueldo, Basque Country, Spain,  February 17, 2009 (Photo by Igeldo Donostia) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Fundraise

Seafood Giants Partner for Sustainable Oceans

ThaiFishingBoatBy Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 22, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – For the first time, 10 of the world’s largest seafood companies have formed a new global coalition aimed at ending unsustainable practices, such as overfishing, slavery at sea and destructive impacts on ocean habitats and marine species.

The initiative, the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), marks the first time that companies from Asia, Europe and the United States have joined forces to work on a clear agenda and commitment for change.

“If private corporations, which are critically dependent on a healthy ocean for their long-term prosperity, take on a leading role in ocean stewardship, then it is good for business and good for the planet,” says Henrik Österblom, a driving force behind the SeaBOS initiative. Professor Österblom is deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) of Stockholm University.

HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden supports the initiative.

The oceans are under enormous pressure due to extensive fishing, pollution and climate change. While governments are beginning to address these issues, doubts remain whether formal government responses are enough to deal with the many global challenges facing the marine ecosystems.

Researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre have since 2012 worked on identifying the largest corporations in the global seafood industry. These are known as keystone actors because they dominate all parts of seafood production, operate through an extensive global network of subsidiaries and make far-reaching decisions that impact fisheries and aquaculture.

The initiative now includes 10 of the largest seafood companies in the world.

They are:

  • two of the world’s largest tuna companies, Thai Union Group PCL and Dongwon Industries of South Korea;
  •  the two largest companies by revenue, Maruha Nichiro Corporation and Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd, both of Japan;
  • the two largest salmon farmers, Marine Harvest ASA of Norway and Cermaq, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation;
  • the two largest aquafeeds companies, from Norway, Skretting, a subsidiary of Nutreco, and Cargill Aqua Nutrition of the United States and Norway;
  • the Japanese tuna purse seine company Kyokuyo
  • the Thai agro-industrial conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Foods

By joining the SeaBOS initiative, companies such as Charoen Pakphand Foods are moving to rise above allegations of slavery aboard supplier boats.

In June 2014, after months of investigation, the British newspaper “The Guardian” claimed that Charoen Pokphand Foods  purchased fishmeal for its farmed prawns from suppliers that own, operate, or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

The Guardian claimed that after the slaves are bought “for as little as £250”, the working conditions on those boats included forced labor with 20-hour work days, forced drug use, starvation, and executions.

A year later, human rights organizations, including Anti-Slavery International, Environmental Justice Foundation and Greenpeace USA urged then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pressure Thailand into taking more decisive action to counter trafficking.

The company began to take steps to correct any questionable practices.

In September 2015, Adirek Sripratak, the president and CEO of Charoen Pokphand, posted a “Statement to Shareholders” pledging to purchase only from certified processing plants and acquire product only from certified Thai fisheries. He stated that supply chain “…fishing vessels, fishmeal processing plants…must be certified by Thailand’s Labor Standard or have been audited…by an external agency (Third Party)….”

The Environmental Justice Foundation says abuses in Thai seafood sector persist, despite arrests linked to human rights abuses and the threat of an EU-wide boycott.

Charoen Pokphand won a court case in the United States in January 2017. The U.S. District Court, Northern District of California ruled on multiple grounds in favor of CP Foods in relation to litigation that claimed damages related to the alleged presence of human rights abuses in the supply chain for Thai shrimp. The court’s order bars the plaintiffs from bringing such claims again.

Yet, the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation says slavery at sea persists. A EJF report earlier this month found “Taiwan’s fishing industry is plagued by illegal activities and fueled by the systemic abuse of its workers.”

“Vulnerable fishers are trafficked from developing countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and trapped into an abusive system of exploitation and overwork onboard vessels fishing illegally in Taiwanese waters and beyond,” says the EJF report.

A victim of human trafficking speaking at shelter in Taiwan told EJF, “I know that a fisherman does not know much, and that’s why they can treat us badly and pay small salaries. No one tried to help us.”

Now, standards agreed by SeaBOS member companies may offer some help to the men who slave their lives away at sea.

A new article in the U.S. scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) describes how researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University convened the seafood CEOs to address marine issues, including slavery aboard fishing boats.

The article illustrates how sustainability scientists can actively engage as change makers.

The authors, who also facilitated the formation of SeaBOS, believe that the major sustainability challenges now facing humanity require that scientists take on a larger and more active role and connect knowledge to action.

By showing how scientists can collaboratively develop solutions to major sustainability issues together with industry, the study presents a unique method, which potentially can be replicated in other sectors.

The PNAS study describes the co-production process that led the SeaBOS companies to commit to action, which culminated in a joint statement presented at the UN Ocean conference in New York in June.

“While substantial literature has focused on how science interacts with policy, relatively little is known about interactions between science and business. The strength of our study is to report in detail on such an interaction while putting it into the broader context of sustainability science”, says Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, PhD student at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, who has, together with Österblom, been instrumental in the establishment of the initiative.

Other companies that have joined the SeaBOS initiative are cleaning up their practices. Cargill Aqua Nutrition is committed to reducing dependency on forage fish through use of co-products from fisheries, including fish trimmings. Trimmings meals and oil provided 33 percent of total marine ingredients in 2016 – up from 32 percent in 2013 and 21 percent in 2010. Use of trimmings uses resources that would otherwise go to waste.

Cargill Aqua Nutrition is increasing efforts to source soy from responsible supply chains. In 2016, more than 73 percent of all soy products sourced were deforestation-free and certified by Pro Terra, a not-for-profit organization that advances and promotes sustainability at all levels of the feed and food production.  All of the soy material sourced for Norway and Scotland were ProTerra certified.

“Cargill Aqua Nutrition is a world leader in aquaculture feed and nutrition. To deliver on our promise on healthy seafood for future generations, we commit to sustainable growth of the global aquaculture industry by creating better operations in a better workplace with better supply chains,” said President of Cargill Aqua Nutrition Einar Wathne.

Carl Folke, co-author of the study and the scientific director at the SRC adds that as researchers there are several challenges when working so closely with high-level companies within a business industry:

“Sustainability science is a use-inspired approach, where scientists can both be embedded in, and learn from change processes,” said Folke. “Our ambition has been to be impartial knowledge brokers in this process and facilitate a new direction for ocean stewardship.”


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Featured Image: Thai fishing vessel, December 2008 (Photo by SeaDave) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Oceans Inspire Global Call to Action

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Diver explores a soft coral cave in Fiji, June 6, 2009 (Photo by thundafunda) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 13, 2017 (Maximapct.com) – Ending the United Nations’ inaugural Ocean Conference on a wave of enthusiastic determination, the 193 UN Member States Friday agreed on a Call to Action  listing specific measures to restore health to Earth’s degraded oceans by 2030.

This outcome document, together with 1,328 voluntary commitments to action, represents a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.

The commitments address Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean,” said President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji, which co-organized the conference with Sweden.

“Henceforth,” said Thomson, “none can say they were not aware of the harm humanity has done to the ocean’s health. We are now working around the world to restore a relationship of balance and respect towards the ocean.”

Recognizing that the wellbeing of present and future generations is linked to the health and productivity of the ocean, all countries agreed, “to act decisively and urgently, convinced that our collective action will make a meaningful difference to our people, to our planet and to our prosperity.”

The Call to Action recognizes the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate; countries agreed to develop and implement measures to address the effects of climate warming on the oceans, such as acidification, sea-level rise and increase in ocean temperatures that harm corals and other marine life.

“We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events,” the UN Member States declared in their Call to Action.

“We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth,” they stated.

“We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean and its ecosystems and to protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity,” they stated. “We recognise that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of our ocean.”

The Call to Action includes measures to protect coastal and blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass and coral reefs, and wider interconnected ecosystems, as well as enhancing sustainable fisheries management, including to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield.

Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and secretary-general of the Ocean Conference, said the conference moved the world closer to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed unanimously by UN Member States in 2015.

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At the Oceans Conference, from left: President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji; Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party spokesperson Isabella Lövin; UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference Wu Hongbo of China. June 8, 2017 (Photo by Evan Schneider courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Participants from member States, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia engaged in wide-ranging discussion and shared state-of-the-art knowledge and latest information on marine science and challenges,” Wu said. “They showcased and put forward many innovative solutions, which can help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, and through its interlinkages the other SDGs and targets.”

Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama emphasized the threats of climate change and ocean litter, declaring that greedy nations and commercial interests threaten livelihoods in small island developing states such as his South Pacific island home.

Among its many voluntary commitments as co-organizer of the Ocean Conference, the Government of Fiji launched the Fiji Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to protect whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. This commitment is a follow-up to Fiji’s declaration of its Exclusive Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary in 2003.

There are 10 confirmed species of whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. Humpback whales breed and calve there, and as many as 15 other cetacean species pass through on their migrations or reside there is small numbers.

But population levels of humpback whales and other whale species are at critically low levels, and the Oceania humpback whale sub-population has been declared endangered.

Sweden, the other Ocean Conference co-organizer, also has made many voluntary commitments to ocean restoration, including a contribution of 50 million SEK (US$5.5 million) to The Blue Action Fund, which makes funding available for the activities of national and international nongovernmental organizations in their efforts to help conserve marine and coastal ecosystems.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with KfW Development Bank founded the Blue Action Fund as a response to the funding gap for the conservation of marine biodiversity, networks of marine protected areas and transboundary conservation measures. The Fund will work in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific region.

“Do what you can, do it wisely, and most importantly do it now. A healthy ocean is not a luxury item. It is a necessity for survival,” Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden told the Stockholm Resilience Centre event on engaging the private sector in SDG 14 held on June 9 at UN headquarters.

“All alarm bells are ringing: We are coming dangerously close to fatal tipping points,” the princess said, emphasizing the critical role of the ocean in sustaining life on Earth. “Taking care of the ocean means taking care of ourselves,” she said.

The Crown Princess spoke at the side event featuring the efforts of nine of the world’s largest seafood companies, members of the science-based sustainability initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS).

The princess praised the SeaBOS commitment to sustainable seafood by connecting the global seafood business to science; wild capture fisheries to aquaculture; and European and North American companies to Asian companies.

Conference organizers say commitments made at the conference indicate that the world is on track to designate more than 10 percent of the oceans as Marine Protected Areas by 2020.

Many countries announced steps to reduce or eliminate single use plastics and microplastics that end up in the oceans, where they harm sea birds and animals.

Numerous countries announced that they are stepping up their efforts to reduce the amount of sewage and pollution entering the ocean from land-based activities.

Many commitments focused on expanding scientific knowledge about the ocean and developing and sharing innovative technologies to address ocean challenges.

There were new commitments to protect and manage fisheries. Some countries announced “no-take zones” for certain fisheries.

Commitments were made to establish systems that allow consumers to more easily source sustainable fish.

New commitments were made to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to curtail fishing subsidies that result in depleted fish populations.

In the Call to Action, the UN Member States agreed to develop an “international legally binding instrument” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the so-called high seas.

They want the UN General Assembly to decide on the convening and on the starting date of an intergovernmental conference to negotiate this legally binding agreement on high seas governance before the end of its 72nd session on September 25.


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Featured Image: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at the UN Ocean Conference, June 9, 2017 (Photo courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Mayday: All Hands on Deck for Oceans

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Common dolphins off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, Feb. 17, 2013 (Photo by John Kay) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 6, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean,” President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji declared on opening day of the inaugural UN Oceans Conference .

At UN headquarters in New York on Monday, he told thousands of participants: heads of State and Government, civil society representatives and business people as well as ocean and marine life advocates, “The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways.”

Thomson spoke out against “inexcusable” actions, such as dumping the equivalent of one large garbage truck of plastic into the oceans every minute of every day, driving fish stocks to the points of collapse, and destroying marine life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The five-day Ocean Conference, initiated by Sweden and Fiji, opened Monday on the UN’s annual World Environment Day with a Fijian traditional welcome ceremony.

It is the first UN conference to focus on one specific Sustainable Development Goal: Number 14 – conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources to benefit present and future generations.

Isabella Lövin, Swedish deputy prime minister, minister for International Development

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Cooperation and a Green Party member, said, “Saving our oceans requires global leadership now. The situation is urgent. The trend we are seeing with overfishing, emissions and littering means that unless we do something by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”

As conference organizers, Sweden and Fiji want to mobilize and accelerate engagement on sustainable ocean management and development to strengthen sustainable development in the most vulnerable countries and regions.

Warning that the special relationship between people and the ocean that brings untold benefits for life is under threat as never before, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the opening of the Ocean Conference that the problems of the ocean—all created by human activity, can all be reversed and prevented with decisive, coordinated action.

“Oceans are a testing ground for the principle of multilateralism,” said Guterres. “The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe. Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

The sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as combating poverty, food security, combating climate change, sustainable production and consumption, and supply of clean water and sanitation for all.

“Oceans are of vital importance to our survival and that of the entire planet. They are a crucial source of protein for the world’s poorest people. Failing to save the oceans will lead to widespread global insecurity,” warned Lövin.

But Lövin struck a note of optimism on opening day. “We are truly looking forward to seeing new partnerships being formed, and new voluntary commitments on SDG 14 being submitted during and after the conference, and warmly welcome the commitments already made,” she said. “The momentum is really energizing.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the incoming president of the next UN Climate Conference in November, emphasized the links between ocean and climate health.

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The United Nations Oceans Conference opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony in the Hall of the UN General Assembly, New York, NY, June 5, 2017 (Photo by Ariana Lindquist courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Climate change poses the biggest threat the world has ever known. And the quality of our oceans and seas is also deteriorating at an alarming rate. They are interlinked, because rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidity and warmer waters have a direct effect on our reefs and fish stocks and the prosperity of our coastal communities,” said the Fijian leader.

The main areas of work at the Ocean Conference will be a political call to action, a segment on partnership dialogues and voluntary commitments. To date, more than 830 voluntary commitments have been registered. See them at: Ocean Conference Commitments

The commitments should be specific, measurable, achievable, resource based, with time-based deliverables.

“The Ocean Conference is where we truly begin the process of reversing the cycle of decline into which our accumulated activities have placed the ocean,” said Thomson.

“By adding to the conference’s register of voluntary commitments; of producing practical solutions to Ocean’s problems at the Partnership Dialogues; and through the affirmation of the conference’s Call for Action, we have begun that process of reversing the wrongs,” he said.

A sampling of the voluntary commitments registered to date shows a wide variety of ocean protection efforts:

  • The International Labour Organization commits to achieving decent work through the elimination of exploitative labor conditions for fishers and seafarers
  • Panama commits to emissions reduction from international shipping through the Panama Canal.
  • Canada commits to protecting at least 10 percent of its marine environment by 2020 with 0.9 percent of its coastal and marine areas as of 2017 already protected.
  • Samoa commits to establish a National Marine Sanctuary together with scientific research, monitoring, and education programs to foster a marine ethic of conservation and marine stewardship.
  • Greece commits to establishment of a Marine Protected Area at the coastline of Plakias, Crete to protect endangered species, increase biodiversity, conserve important ecosystems and increase eco-tourism.
  • Turkey commits to conclude Marine Litter Action Plans at the end of 2018 which will be prepared for each province that borders the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea or Sea of Marmara. Strong waste management policies as well as reduction, reuse and recycling activities are encouraged by Turkish government.
  • Adidas, the shoe manufacturer, commits to produce one million pairs of shoes made from with recycled ocean plastic by the end of 2017, Phase out the use of virgin plastic, and invest to divert plastic litter from coastal communities and turn it into products.
  • The Walton Family Foundation commits to work with Indonesia, the United States, Mexico, Peru, and Chile to improve fisheries management for the benefit of fishing communities and ocean habitats over the next 10 to 20 years and work to ensure that fish entering the European Union, Japan and the United States are sustainably caught.
  • The civil society organization oneocean.fm commits to raise awareness for ocean conservation through the power of music. Collaborations bring together Dr. Sylvia Earle, Sir Richard Branson, Fabien Cousteau, and like minded platforms, organizations, businesses and radio stations from around the world.

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First Flight ‘On Wings of Waste’

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Pilot Jeremy Rowsell with the On Wings of Waste aircraft. Rowsell was born in London into a family of military pilots. He first flew solo at age 14, flew during university, then travelled and flew extensively in Africa. Working as a broker at Lloyds of London led to a job in Australia. He currently lives Sydney and works for multinational insurer Jardine Lloyd Thompson, who supported his flight On Wings of Waste. (Photo courtesy On Wings of Waste) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Pilot Jeremy Rowsell made history this week by flying a light plane across Australia from Sydney to Melbourne, using blended fuel  – 10 percent derived from plastic waste blended with 90 percent conventional fuel.

After years of preparation and many ups and downs we’ve finally shown that the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use,” said Rowsell as he arrived in Melbourne today.

The flight from Sydney to Melbourne covered 500 miles. The Vans aircraft RV9a traveled at 100 nautical miles an hour over a period of 20 hours.

With the unique ‘On Wings of Waste‘ flight, Rowsell, co-pilot Chris Clark and their team set out to prove that plastic waste can be transformed from a pollutant into an alternative fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel.

We blended 10 percent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel and the flight was a dream,” Rowsell enthused upon landing in Melbourne.

The team’s campaign to inspire people to recycle plastic waste has taken four years to lift off. The four-stage proposition is:

re-cycle – public support for a recycling campaign

re-use – plastic waste is transformed into fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel

re-fuel – airlines adopt a 10 percent blend of fuel derived from plastic waste

rescue – pollution of the world’s oceans is slowed down and eventually halted

The unique project came about after Rowsell observed from the air the danger posed by ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste found in the ocean.

Marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes, from large trawl nets, discarded or lost at sea, to plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice that float throughout the water column.

The equivalent of a garbage truck full of waste plastic is dumped into the sea every minute, says Rowsell, the equivalent of eight million tons of plastic that enters the oceans every year.

He was inspired to test out a solution.

For the fuel that made up the 10 percent derived from plastic, Plastic Energy used end-of-life plastic, normally found in garbage patches in the ocean and in landfill sites, where it takes hundreds of years to degrade.

The waste can be turned into recyclable material; 95 percent is usable for diesel fuel and the other five percent, known as Char is a solid that can be used for fuel additives and pigments. 

Plastic Energy uses a process called thermal anaerobic conversion. Plastics are heated in an oxygen-free environment to prevent them from burning, and then broken into their component hydrocarbons to create the equivalent of a petroleum distillate. This can then be separated into different fuels.

As there is no burning of the plastics, but rather a melting process, no toxic emissions are released into the environment.

Carlos Monreal, president and CEO, Plastic Energy, said, “Jeremy’s flight is a tremendous opportunity to showcase how plastic waste can be put to productive use instead of thrown away to pollute the oceans or despoil the land. We are delighted to be supporting this adventure.”

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A seal approaches discarded fishing nets that cover a coral reef in Hawaiian waters. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

Plastic breaks up into small particles, mixing with the plankton at the ocean surface. Plankton is at the heart of the food chain and provides us with more than half the oxygen we breathe – our oceans keep us alive,” explains Jo Ruxton, part of the On Wings of Waste team and one of the producers of “A Plastic Ocean,” a film on plastic pollution to be released January 20. 

We can’t yet safely remove plastic particles from plankton that lives in the ocean, so we must stop dumping plastic waste in the ocean,” Ruxton said.

There are estimated to be 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating – mainly at the bottom – of the world’s seas,” she says.

Besides using waste plastic that otherwise could be dumped in the ocean, Jeremy’s flight could have a major effect on the aviation industry.

Rowsell points out that 33 percent of airlines’ operating costs are spent on fuel.

A 747 aircraft on a 10,000 mile flight burns 36,000 gallons of fuel. If 10 percent of fuel burned on that flight were sourced from plastic waste, 3,600 (UK) gallons, it would be the equivalent of 18 tonnes of waste plastic, utilized, not dumped.

Calculate in the 1,200 flights a day that are made from Heathrow alone, and it is possible that more than 21,000 tonnes of waste plastic could be transformed from pollutant to fuel – every day.

The On Wings of Waste team is looking for support from the general public and other investors to build a recycling plant in Australia that could lead to a change in culture and attitude about how we dispose of single use plastic.

World renowned naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough has backed the project saying, “The Wings of Waste flight, I hope, will bring the attention of the world to this great solution that is there waiting to be taken if only we can get the support of people to do so.” 

Rowsell and survival trainer Tony Loughran from Zerorisk International have started to roll out an educational campaign in Australia, building a groundswell of support for On Wings of Waste.


Featured Image: This photo, taken after a marine debris removal effort by NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, shows 4,781 bottle caps collected from Midway Atoll’s shoreline. Most plastic bottle caps are made from polypropylene, a hard, durable plastic that can be tough to recycle. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of marine and environmental experts that can help your organization with ocean economy related projects. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

Pristine Ross Sea Wilderness Protected

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Map of the newly protected marine area in the Ross Sea (Map by Pew Charitable Trusts courtesy New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

HOBART, Tasmania, Australia, November 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Union and 24 national governments have agreed to safeguard an expansive area in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, to take effect December 1, 2017.

At a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart late last month, all members agreed to a joint proposal by the United States and New Zealand to establish a 1.55 million square kilometer (598,000 square mile) area of the Ross Sea that will be protected from human activities.

The new marine protected area is now the world’s largest. By comparison, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was previously the largest marine protected area, covers 1.508 million square kilometers (583,000 square miles).

 To the west of the new marine protected area (MPA) lies Ross Island and to the east Roosevelt Island, while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf. It is located about 320 km (200 miles) from the South Pole.

This new MPA will limit, or prohibit, fishing and krill harvesting to meet conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives.

Seventy-two percent of the MPA will be a no-take zone, which bans all fishing, while other sections will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

 The United States and New Zealand worked together on the MPA proposal, a logical development as they are next-door neighbors in Antarctica. McMurdo Station, a U.S. Antarctic research center on the south tip of Ross Island, is in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound. Just three kilometers (two miles) away by road is the Scott Base, New Zealand’s research facility also in the Ross Dependency.

CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright says the decision was years in the making. “This has been an incredibly complex negotiation which has required a number of member countries bringing their hopes and concerns to the table at six annual CCAMLR meetings as well as at intersessional workshops.”

A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalized, but the establishment of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point,” said Wright.

Australia welcomes the establishment of the newly protected area. Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Gillian Slocum, said the Ross Sea MPA is an important step towards achieving strong conservation outcomes.

We are heartened by the adoption of the Ross Sea MPA and we congratulate all members for taking decisive action towards meeting a 2009 commitment to establish a representative system of MPAs within the CCAMLR area,” Slocum said.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully hailed the breakthrough agreement that will safeguard what he called “one of the world’s few remaining pristine natural environments.

 “New Zealand has played a leading role in reaching this agreement which makes a significant contribution to global marine protection,” he said.

The proposal required some changes in order to gain the unanimous support of all 25 CCAMLR members and the final agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests,” McCully explained. “The boundaries of the MPA, however, remain unchanged.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said creation of the Ross Sea MPA is “…proof that the world is finally beginning to understand the urgency of the threats facing our planet.

The United States is grateful for the cooperation with our New Zealand co-sponsors of the proposal, and of all CCAMLR members, including Russia, to make this achievement possible,” Kerry said.

His nod to Russia for its agreement comes after previous CCAMLR meetings with a different outcome. In 2013, for instance, Russian delegates tried everything from delay and confusion tactics to challenging of the legality of CCAMLR’s right to establish MPAs to avoid an accord.

But Kerry says the lengthy and sometimes frustrating negotiations were worth it for this year’s outcome.

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U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine ecologist Lisa Ballance in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica, at a site where NOAA satellite-tagged one of the local forms of killer whales, 2007. (Photo by NOAA) public domain.

The Ross Sea Region MPA will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet,” he said, “home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”

The Ross Sea is one of the last stretches of seas on Earth that remains relatively unaffected by human activities and almost totally free from pollution and the introduction of invasive species.

Marine biologists regard the Ross Sea as highly biodiverse, after a long history of human exploration and scientific research, with some datasets going back over 150 years.

The sea is inhabited by at least 10 mammal species, including the Antarctic minke whale, killer whale, Weddell seal, crabeater seal, and leopard seal.

There are 95 species of fish and and over 1,000 invertebrate species in the Ross Sea, including the Antarctic toothfish, Antarctic silverfish, Antarctic krill, and crystal krill.

In summer, the nutrient-rich water supports abundant plankton, tiny crustaceans that provide food for fish, seals, whales, seabirds and shore birds.

Numerous environmental groups have campaigned to make the area a world marine reserve, citing the rare opportunity to protect the Ross Sea from human degradation.

The nonprofit Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) based in Washington, DC, a coalition of over 30 nongovernmental organizations, has been advocating protection of the Ross Sea for years.

ASOC says conserving the MPA is critically important because of the rich array of species living there. “Although the Ross Sea encompasses less than 13 percent of the circumference of Antarctica, and just 3.3 percent of the area of the Southern Ocean, it provides habitat for significant populations of many animals, including 38 percent of the world’s Adélie penguins, 26 percent of Emperor penguins, more than 30 percent of Antarctic petrels, six percent of Antarctic minke whales, and perhaps more than 30 percent of Ross Sea killer whales,” the coalition says.

 The new MPA “…has the richest diversity of fishes in the high latitude Southern Ocean, including seven species found nowhere else, with an evolutionary radiation equivalent to the Galapagos, the African rift lakes, and Lake Baikal, all designated as World Heritage Sites for their exemplary fauna,” says ASOC.

Any alteration of the food web or degradation of habitat will have the same damaging effects that have been documented elsewhere on Earth, such as toxic algal blooms, oxygen-deprived dead zones and jellyfish invasions,” the NGO warns.

 Exploratory fisheries first appeared in the Southern Ocean in the early 1960s with full-scale commercial fisheries underway by the 1970s, targeting fish and krill. In a familiar pattern, fish populations were discovered, exploited, depleted and then the fisheries closed.

Willie Mackenzie, with Greenpeace UK’s biodiversity team, blogged in response to agreement on the new MPA, “Known as ‘the Last Ocean,’ the Ross Sea has been identified by scientists as the most pristine shallow ocean left on Earth. It’s stunning, but we were starting to wonder if it would ever be protected.

To finally reach agreement on the Ross Sea MPA, a time clause of 35 years was included in the accord, so in 35 years CCAMLR members will again have to decide on the future of the Ross Sea.

Mackenzie wrote, “Marine protection, to be truly effective, needs to be long lasting so we have all those years ahead of us to make sure when the Ross Sea sanctuary is up for renewal, there is no resistance to making it permanent. We’re pretty confident that by 2051 it will be a simple decision!


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Featured image:  Emperor penguins on sea ice near Ross Island, Antarctica, October 28, 2012 (Photo by Johannes Zielcke) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

World Running Out of Time to Sustainably Manage Oceans

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 18, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The greatest threat to the world’s oceans comes from human failure to deal quickly with the many problems that human activities have created in the marine environment, finds the first World Ocean Assessment written by a UN-convened group of experts.

“Human impacts on the sea are no longer minor in relation to the overall scale of the ocean. A coherent overall approach is needed,” according to the report, presented to the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, at a meeting from September 8 to 11.

“Many parts of the ocean have been seriously degraded,” the report states. “If the problems are not addressed, there is a major risk that they will combine to produce a destructive cycle of degradation in which the ocean can no longer provide many of the benefits that humans currently enjoy from it.”

The World Ocean Assessment does not include any analysis of policies. It is intended to support informed decision-making and contribute to managing human activities that affect the oceans and seas in a sustainable manner, under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 World Ocean Assessment’s Ten Themes:

 

  1. Climate change: Climate change means rises in sea level, higher levels of acidity in the ocean, the reduced mixing of ocean water and increasing deoxygenation.

“The ocean is acidifying rapidly and at an unprecedented rate in the Earth’s history. The impact of ocean acidification on marine species and food webs will affect major economic interests and could increasingly put food security at risk, particularly in regions especially dependent on seafood protein,” according to the assessment.

“The consensus is that increases in global temperature, in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in the radiation from the sun that reaches the ocean have already had an impact on some aspects of the ocean and will produce further significant incremental changes over time,” the report states.

  1. Overexploitation of marine life: Harvesting of living marine resources has exceeded sustainable levels in many regions. And overexploitation has caused ecosystem changes such as the smothering of corals by algae caused by the overfishing of herbivorous fish in parts of the Caribbean.

Overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat and climate change are all putting pressure on fish reproduction with important implications for food security and biodiversity.

AfricanWomenFishing
Women fish in shallow water in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania (Image credit: Matt Kieffer creative commons license via Flickr)

 

  1. Food security and food safety: Fish products are the major source of animal protein for a large fraction of the world’s population, but globally, the current mix of the global capture fisheries is near the ocean’s productive capacity, with catches on the order of 80 million tons a year.

Ending overfishing, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and rebuilding depleted resources could result in a potential increase of as much as 20 per cent in yield, according to the assessment, but rebuilding depleted stocks would be costly. In some areas, pollution and dead zones are also depressing the production of food from the sea.

  1. Biodiversity: The pressures on marine biodiversity are increasing, particularly near large population centers, in biodiversity hotspots, and in the open ocean, which has so far suffered limited impacts.
  1. Crowded Ocean Spaces: Conflicting demands for dedicated marine space arise from the expansion of longstanding ocean uses, such as fishing and shipping, and from newly developing uses, such as hydrocarbon extraction, mining and offshore generation of renewable energy. As yet there is no clear overarching management system or evaluation of their cumulative impacts on the ocean environment.
  1. Pollution: The burgeoning human population as well as industrial and agricultural production are increasing the emissions of harmful materials and excess nutrients into the ocean.

Sewage discharge levels often are beyond local carrying capacities and can harm human health; still, discharges of industrial effluents and emissions are growing.

Plastic marine debris from the poor management of waste streams on land and at sea means that fish get caught in “ghost” nets, seabirds and seals die from eating plastic bags. Plastic debris destroys the natural beauty of many ocean areas, affecting the livelihoods of local residents who work in the tourist industry. Less obviously, zooplankton and filter-feeding species suffer from the nanoparticles into which those plastics break down, with “serious effects all the way up the food web.”

HumpbackMorroBayHumpback whale breaches in Morro Bay in front of smokestacks at San Luis Obispo, California (Image credit Devra creative commons license via Flickr)

 

  1. Cumulative Impacts: The cumulative adverse impacts of activities that in the past seemed sustainable are resulting in major changes to some ecosystems and in a reduction in the services they provide. For instance, where biodiversity has been altered, the resilience of ecosystems to climate change is often reduced.
  1. Uneven Benefits: Differences in capacities to manage sewage, pollution and habitats create inequities between developed and developing countries. Gaps in capacity-building hinder less developed countries from taking advantage of what the ocean can offer them, and reduce their capability to address the ways they degrade the ocean.
  1. Coherent Marine Management: This requires taking into account the effects on ecosystems of each of the many pressures, what is being done in other sectors and the way that they interact. The ocean is a complex set of systems that are all interconnected, and a coherent management approach requires a wider range of knowledge about the ocean.
  1. Solutions Delayed are Solutions Denied: There are known practical measures to address many of the pressures on marine ecosystems that are degrading the ocean, causing social and economic problems. Delays in implementing known solutions, even if they are only partial and will leave more to be done, mean that “we are unnecessarily incurring those environmental, social and economic costs,” the assessment warns.

The World Ocean Assessment was born 2002, when the World Summit on Sustainable Development recommended that there be a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, and the UN General Assembly accepted that recommendation.

In December 2010, the General Assembly established a formal Group of Experts to produce the first World Ocean Assessment by 2014. A much larger pool of experts assists the Group of Experts in conducting the assessments and provides peer-review to ensure the high quality of the outputs.

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, acts as the secretariat for the World Ocean Assessment.

A Bureau of 15 UN Member States, representing the regional groups of the United Nations, oversees the entire process.

Find the basics behind the first World Ocean Assessment here.

Read a summary of the World Ocean Assessment here:


About the Author: Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990. Find ENS online at: www.ens-newswire.com

Featured image: Endangered Hawaiian monk seal entangled in marine debris (Image credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).