IUCN Motion 53 calling for 30% of EEZ to become MPAs / by Francisco Blaha

The Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress is meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii from the 1st to the 10th September and will conduct a vote on a number of resolutions which it wishes to present to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) at the time of the review of the Aichi Targets.

 Is your future either way...

Is your future either way...

These targets are part of the CBD’s biodiversity strategic plan for the 2011-2020 period targeted towards the conservation of biodiversity. Among the many resolutions that will be put to the vote and one which is concerning to Pacific Island Countries is motion 53 which calls for implementation of 30% of members’ national waters as marine protected areas (MPAs).

If this is passed it will require all coastal states to close 30% of their EEZs to all fishing in the next 24 years. Pacific Islands countries already have robust management controls of their commercial fisheries, such as the capping of the number of fishing licenses.

Solomon Islands, for example, will be implementing long liner vessel day scheme (VDS) as early as 2017. In addition, Vessel operators in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) areas are also faced tough fisheries management measures like the VDS, Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) ban periods and the ban on high seas pocket 1 and 2 in the central and western Pacific Ocean which already covers area of around 1.2 million square kilometers of “no take” closed areas.

Therefore, to find themselves "forced" to a further 30% of “no take” MPA is a unfair to the struggling Island economies where the Fishing Industry is one of the few viable income options.

Further to that, tuna is a highly migratory pelagic fish species and has no residential home in an MPA, therefore the use of large MPAs as a management tool for sustainable fisheries in the pelagic fisheries is arguable from the science and common sense perspectives.

The pelagic fish species shift from a protected area to areas where there is less control like the high seas. This could lead to overfishing in the uncontrolled areas. The other area of concern is that responsible agencies for this agreements are not fisheries agencies but environmental agencies which do not deal with fisheries management or understand the science of it.

These types of conundrums are unfortunately not new. Legitimate conservation agendas are driven by developed economies, that have had bad demersal fisheries policies over years (and where MPAs make more sense). Push a blanket agenda (to calm their own fishing constituency?) over countries that have different fisheries model and set of needs. These issues go beyond conservation and fisheries.

Lets watch the space, as the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) is advocating