18 June 2012
Source: Business Day
Author: Richard Branson
THE oceans are our planet’s new frontier, a huge area only partly explored and little regulated, where both outlaws and law-abiding citizens are legally plundering the planet’s resources. While 15% to 20% of the earth’s land area is designated as "protected," with status as national parks or conservation areas, less than 1% of the world’s oceans — which cover 70% of the surface — enjoy the same protections. This needs to change fast, because our oceans are dying.
At the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development that will take place in Brazil on June 20, the Ocean Elders, a group of global leaders who have teamed up to use their influence to promote ocean conservation, will be urging heads of state and high-level government envoys to draw up a mandate that will oblige nations around the world to assume a far higher level of responsibility for the welfare of our oceans. The conference is known as the Rio+20, recognising that 20 years have passed since the first Earth Summit in Rio. At this summit, it is time for leaders to push through real change.
With most of the high seas open to unrestricted fishing, the oceans are being pillaged. One of the worst techniques is dragnet bottom trawling, which involves dragging large, heavy nets across the seabed, destroying corals and sponges vital to ecosystems — effectively strip-mining the oceans of marine life. This indiscriminate trawling is as inefficient as it is destructive: for every kilogram of targeted fish species captured in such a net, about 10kg of so-called "by-kill" (unwanted fish) is killed. It is not surprising that studies by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Department showed in 2012 that about a third of fish stocks were overexploited, depleted or recovering.
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