Oceana bemoans failure of 2010 as International Year of Biodiversity

Outcome of Nagoya COP10, Cancun Climate Change Summit, OSPAR, among others, highlights inability of world leaders to take strong action, fulfill commitments on marine issues.

Press Release Date: December 20, 2010

Location: Madrid


Oceana Web | email: webadmin@oceana.org | tel.: 202.000.0000

As 2010 comes to a close, Oceana is disappointed in the failure of world leaders, and particularly the European Union, to heed the call of the International Year of Biodiversity and take firm steps to reverse the dangerous trend of biodiversity loss around the world. Despite many opportunities for positive advances, including the Nagoya COP10 and the Cancun Climate Change Summit, governments failed to take strong actions to protect marine environments. In the EU, the Natura 2000 network remains unfulfilled and current fisheries management measures are unsustainable, despite some steps in the right direction.

“Governments are showing they don’t take environmental commitments and legislation very seriously, and laws are postponed or ignored with complete impunity,” states Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana. “We are already suffering the damaging effects, including declining fishery resources or problems related to climate change, and we must be firm in order to solve these problems”.

Key issues of concern include:

  • Less than 1% of marine areas in Europe are protected, despite the UN Convention on Biological Diversity commitment to protect 10% of marine areas by 2012. The Nagoya COP10 unfortunately postponed the objective until 2020. Similarly, OSPAR did not comply with its objective to create a coherent network of marine protected areas in 2010, taking only a small step forward in this direction.
  • The Cancun Climate Summit COP 16 was not able to reach commitments to reduce emissions enough to halt the effects on the oceans. Climate change is causing the acidification of the oceans, affecting the calcareous structure of corals and mollusc shells. The only way to stop this dangerous trend, is to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
  • According to European legislation, the marine Natura 2000 network should be established by 2012 in order to ensure the conservation of the EU priority species and habitats. However, the network has been deemed insufficient for many areas of the Atlantic and Baltic. It was also evaluated in 2010 in the Mediterranean and Macaronesia (Atlantic Islands) and was deemed insufficient for most species and habitats.
  • The Habitats Directive, the most important EU environmental tool, only includes 16 marine species and 5 habitats in its annexes. It must be updated immediately to include more species.

The spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which affected thousands of marine species and habitats, was a stark reminder of the dangers facing marine ecosystems. While the U.S. government reacted by establishing a moratorium on exploitation, Europe chose to ignore the signs and continues supporting the development of an energy mix with significant participation of fossil fuels, increasing the number of offshore platforms.

Biodiversity depends directly on the amount of species present in the oceans, and in Europe’s case, these numbers are declining at an alarming rate. Fisheries resources continue to be overexploited and management plans are failing to ensure stock sustainability.

Marine protected areas are an essential tool to protect biodiversity and more must be established. Furthermore, marine research must be increased and initiatives like the Census of Marine Life or the Malaspina Expedition are essential to developing management and conservation measures that ensure the future of our oceans and the resources on which we depend.