In 1992, at the original Earth Summit in Rio, the world came together to shape a brighter future for the planet. Yet 20 years later, the oceans have received far less protection than land, deep sea areas in particular have been ignored, marine protected areas are few and far between, while many are poorly (if at all) managed, and overfishing is rampant. Meanwhile, the international commitment we made to protect 10% of the oceans by 2012 has been delayed to 2020.
The solution is no mystery, in fact the EU has known for years what needs to be done. It’s obvious that if fish stocks aren’t healthy, the fishing industry isn’t healthy – and neither are in good shape. In fact the only way the sinking industry is kept afloat these days is through millions of Euros in subsidies – paid for by us – European citizens.
Yet almost every time an opportunity presents itself to finally tackle the many issues plaguing our oceans, the short-term interests of policy makers get in the way. It’s been 20 years of ignoring scientific advice; 20 years of dwindling stocks; 20 years of excuses.
One week ago, the Council of EU Fisheries Ministers had an opportunity to finally set some strong goals – but they didn’t take it and chose instead to (yes you guessed it) delay the Common Fisheries Policy priority objectives. In fact, the discard ban, a topic that has been at the forefront of the debate, has been delayed by over 5 years.
Let’s hope that Rio +20 ends with more than empty promises and serves to motivate leaders of the world to make the environment a priority.