Oceana: RIO +20 fails to make real progress towards restoring oceans

Positive outcomes of final declaration include the importance finally given to oceans, and particularly to deep sea areas.

Press Release Date: June 25, 2012

Location: Madrid


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Oceana finds the final Rio +20 declaration to be a weak statement of intent, with no legally binding commitment that fails to respond to the urgent conservation and management needs of the world’s oceans. Rio +20 concludes without any real progress towards a sustainable future. However, the international marine conservation organization acknowledges as a positive step, the recognition finally given to the oceans at the summit.

The final document does not show any solid progress, only weak statements of intent which in most cases simply reiterate existing targets from other texts. For the sake of consensus, they have sacrificed the commitments that are urgently needed to restore the health of our oceans,” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “It only takes a little historical perspective to see that outcomes of the final Rio+20 text or having no text at all, would be the same.”

This summit was held 30 years after the adoption of UNCLOS (Law of the Sea), 20 after the Earth Summit and 10 after the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development. The final text has contributed positively by emphasizing the importance of the oceans in sustainable development, but is limited to endorsing these previous agreements.

The only relevant outcome was the importance that has finally been given to the oceans, and in particular to the need to protect deep sea areas,” said Ricardo Aguilar, research director of Oceana Europe. “No real progress was made to create marine protected areas or control illegal fishing and the measures proposed to recover fish stocks were already agreed on a decade ago.”

Rio +20 has called on counties to commit to urgently achieving the maximum sustainable yield by 2015 as defined at the Johannesburg Summit in 2002, that is, depleted fish stocks must recover to levels that will generate the largest possible catch over an indefinite amount of time. Moreover, it appeals for the adoption of management plans based on scientific data, including the reduction or suspension of catches.

The final declaration also recalled the commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 10% of coastal and marine ecosystems, which has been delayed from 2012 to 2020 due to failed compliance by signatory countries. The text furthermore recognizes the importance of marine ecosystems in the high seas and the necessity of their sustainable use, stating its commitment to creating an international tool in the context of UNCLOS to tackle this.