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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



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.”


Consulant

Featured Image: Thai fishing vessel, December 2008 (Photo by SeaDave) 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).