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Ocean Conservation: What’s been done in 20 years?


Photo courtesy of William Cho

Promises and targets made within the last 20 years regarding ocean conservation have so far been largely ignored. In the light of the Rio+20 summit conservationists are hoping for greater guarantees and a more serious commitment in order to protect global oceans from overfishing and various other threats.

A renewed commitment to ocean conservation was enforced at the World Summit on Sustainable to Development in 2002, where heads of 192 governments came together to agree upon joint objectives to aid ocean conservation.  This protection of vulnerable marine species, increasing fishing sustainability and preserving habitats were all included as vital targets.  In a paper published today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and world renowned researchers, it has been revealed that none of the targets have been met. Even more worryingly, some cases are now worse than before.

The main issue that needs to be raised in the Rio+20 summits is the global depletion of fish stocks due to overfishing. This dramatically upsets the ocean’s ecosystem which is already suffering due to climate change, disease and other risks. Activities such as overfishing and pollution only further increase the heavy damage on the already fragile ocean ecosystem.

Professor Jonathan Baillie of ZSL argues that this is because the targets set are not being taken seriously enough. He said, “Governments must be held accountable and any future commitments must come with clear plans for implementation and a process to evaluate success or failure.”

Despite this there remain a few areas of substantial improvement. The creation of large marine reserves around remote islands such as the Chagos Archipelago, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and South Orkney are encouraging steps in the right direction. Furthermore, there have been improvements to the fishing gear used in some areas, reducing their impact on seabird populations. Although these changes have been implemented, marine conservation remains critical. There is still very little protection for delicate marine habitats.

It is hoped that more serious targets and guarantees will be made at this year’s Rio+20 summit. The last 20 years in marine conservation have been of minimal impact and it is hoped that the next set of targets will be better adhered to.

Our marine projects allow you to make a difference as a marine conservation volunteer.

Read more from Froniter about Rio+20 here.

By Dana Beltaji

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