Ocean Action Hub

12 July 2017 - A report to a UN ocean conference in New York points out that more than 60% of the ocean has no conservation rules as it’s outside national jurisdiction.

It says the open ocean is at risk from climate change, over-fishing, deep sea mining, farm pollution and plastics.

The authors say one area – the Bay of Bengal - is at a tipping point which could impact on global fish stocks.

The report was commissioned to inform delegates preparing a UN resolution on governance of the open ocean.

Representatives in New York are preparing a text that could cover everything from establishing marine protected areas to distributing the benefits of valuable biotech products generated from the seas.

One of the report’s authors, Prof Alex Rogers from Oxford University, told BBC News: “This is very, very important. A lot of states are looking towards developing industrial activities in the ocean – fishing, deep-sea mining, renewable energy… even aquaculture offshore.

“It’s really vital that we come to some international agreement on how to protect or manage biodiversity on high seas in the face of all these pressures.”

The UN is focusing discussion on three areas:

  • Setting up a legal framework for marine conservation areas on the high seas - or other spatial measures like banning destructive fishing gear in vulnerable places;
  • A more rigorous environmental impact before industrial activities are undertaken;
  • Developing rules around marine genetic resources so all nations get a share of the wealth of the seas.

Together they are categorised under a new UN acronym – BBNJ. That’s Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

Prof Rogers’ report is a review of new science over the past five years. He says he realises how little is known about some essential ocean processes, and mentions the Bay of Bengal issue as a source of great concern.

The issue there is nitrogen, which performs an positive role in fertilising algae at the bottom of the food chain, but can also have negative effects if there’s too much of it in the water.

At the moment, nitrogen fertilisers in the Bay of Bengal are running off farmland and over-fertilising algae. This in turn encourages bacteria, which capture oxygen. Slowly marine life in the area disappears.

But the Bay of Bengal is now on the verge of going one destructive stage more.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40572676

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Publication date: 
12/07/2017
Publication Organisation: 
BBC News
Publication Author: 
Roger Harrabin
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