Nations Urged To “Think As Big As The Oceans Are Vast”
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) co-hosts the First International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Australia; calls
on the global community to achieve the UN 2012 target on marine protected areas
Geelong, Australia (IUCN) – Nations across the world need to step up and scale up their efforts in protecting the
world’s vast and increasingly vulnerable marine environment from climate change, pollution, resource depletion and other
threats, urged the World Conservation Union (IUCN) at the opening of the First International Marine Protected Areas
Congress (IMPAC1), which continues throughout the week in Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
In a keynote address to the Congress earlier today, IUCN Director General Achim Steiner called for concerted
international action to establish a global representative network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012, a target the
global community had set itself at the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development.
“Our seas and oceans cover a staggering three quarters of the planet’s surface, but less than one percent of the marine
environment worldwide is under protection today – despite the political imperative and mounting scientific evidence that
marine protected areas can be a central tool against fish stocks depletion, alien species invasions, and the great
shifts caused by climate change,” said Steiner.
“If we are to improve the global ocean governance system, restore fish stock productivity and achieve sound management
of existing and future marine protected areas, we need to think as big as the oceans are vast. The World Conservation
Union calls on all parties – sovereign States, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, regional fisheries management
organizations, and the conservation community – to work together on developing and implementing a ‘navigational chart’
for establishing a global representative system of MPAs by the year 2012,” Steiner told a gathering of some 700 IMPAC1
participants from over 60 countries.
Steiner said the Congress is an opportunity for the conservation community to reconnect with agencies responsible for
fisheries management and trade. “More often than not, conservation and fisheries authorities are at odds when it comes
to the establishment of marine protected areas. At this Congress, we need to demonstrate that MPAs not only benefit
marine species and habitats, but can also play a crucial role in preventing the collapse of the world’s fisheries.
Marine protected areas are not just a conservation priority – it is our shared mandate as a global community,” he said.
Over the past ten years, the World Conservation Union has identified marine areas in urgent need of protection on the
global scale such as coral reefs and the “high seas”, or areas outside of national jurisdiction, which should become the
key elements of a global representative system of MPAs.
“Vast areas of ocean – first of all, the high seas – lack an effective management regime. We are just beginning to
scratch the surface in terms of our knowledge of open ocean species and ecosystems at all depths, and realize the
urgency of protecting them from degradation through over-harvesting and destructive fishing practices such as deep sea
bottom trawling. We must protect the high seas before it’s too late,” Steiner said.
Steiner also addressed the growing international problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. “IUU
fishing is a scourge on the oceans, and more nations need to follow Australia’s example in taking a tough, no-nonsense,
stance in tracking and capturing such criminals. IUCN is proud to be part of the High Seas Task Force, of which
Australia is a member, that aims to combat IUU fishing,” he said.
The First International Marine Protected Areas Congress aims to advance MPAs as a key tool for marine conservation and
is jointly organized by Parks Victoria, the Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Department
of Environment and Heritage and Australian Fisheries Management Authority together with the World Conservation Union
(IUCN) and its World Commission on Protected Areas.
“The Congress comes at a crucial time. We have seven years to meet the globally agreed target to establish a global
representative network of marine protected areas, and thereby make a difference for the world’s oceans,” Steiner