Who owns the fish? UN meetings focus on eminent tuna collapse.

Out of sight and out of mind, the most valuable fisheries on Earth are up for grabs.

May 8, 2012, United Nations- It’s called ABNJ, which stands for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, and it makes up 64% of the surface of the world’s oceans. Yet, this part of the planet has no protection from the massive destruction by private interest fishing operations. At the UN today, a Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity in ABNJ was introduced to protect the biodiversity of this area, which some consider to be the last global “commons” on Earth.

Organized by the Global Ocean Forum, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about 30 experts from those groups as well as UNEP, the World Bank, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, International Sustainable Seafood Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy gathered to share the details of a new program that will devote $44 million dollars to manage the long-term health of this frontier which is depreciating rapidly. Throughout history, it’s been “every man for himself” out there beyond the watchful eyes of citizens, giving way to total anarchy dominated by highly sophisticated $10 billion dollar/year fishing operations equal to 6.3 million tons caught per year.

While land degradation is visible, ocean degradation is invisible and this makes the task of protecting our high seas particularly challenging, as the area is unmonitored. The effect of loss of biodiversity in the open ocean, however, is very much felt in the decline of fisheries in coastal waters.

In the decade following the adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, fishing on the high seas became a major international problem. The Convention gave all states the freedom to fish without regulations on the high seas, but coastal states, to which the Law of the Sea conferred exclusive economic rights including the right to fish within 200 miles off their shores, began to complain that fleets fishing on the high seas were reducing catches in their domestic waters.

The problem centered on fish populations that “straddle” the boundaries of countries’ 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs), such as cod off Canada’s eastern coast and pollock in the Bering Sea, and highly migratory species like tuna and swordfish, which move between EEZs and the high seas.

By the early 1990s, most stocks of commercially valued fish were running low, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). As catches became smaller, coastal states complained that the industrial-scale fishing operations on the high seas were undermining their efforts to conserve and revitalize fish stocks.

There is a history of violence between fishing vessels and coastal states, most notable during the “cod wars” of the 1970s. Several countries, including Britain and Norway, sent naval ships to protect fishing fleets on the high seas. Spanish fishers clashed with British and French drift netters in what came to be known as the “tuna wars.” Before the UN Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was finalized in October 1995, several coastal states had fired shots at foreign fleets. In the northern Atlantic, Canada seized and confiscated a Spanish boat fishing in international waters just beyond the Canadian 200-mile limit.

At the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, known as the first Earth Summit, governments called on the United Nations to find ways to conserve fish stocks and prevent international conflicts over fishing on the high seas.

The coastal states most concerned during the negotiations about the impact of high seas fishing on their domestic harvest included Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland and New Zealand, complaining that only six countries were responsible for 90 per cent of deep sea fishing: Russia, Japan, Spain, Poland, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan province of China. The United States also caught a significant amount of fish, especially tuna, and China soon became a major fishing nation.

Companies began to use refrigerated factory trawlers or “mother ships” that allowed fleets to travel vast distances from the home country and to stay at sea for longer periods without having to return to shore. What quickly became a human rights issue, these fleets undermined the livelihoods of local fishers, depriving poor people in coastal areas of a primary source of sustenance.

On the table for Rio+20 next month, though not without conflict, is an end to government fishing subsidies, considered to be as damaging as fossil fuel subsidies. No agreement has been reached here, nor has a proposed phase-out of all deep-sea bottom-trawl fishing on the high seas by 2015. This is called for on the basis that no deep-sea bottom trawl vessels or fleets have demonstrated that they can fish deep-sea species sustainably and prevent damage to deep-sea ecosystems.

Also at the negotiating table is a call for labeling, and for seafood buyers and retailers to only buy and sell fish from deep-sea fisheries that have clearly demonstrated no harm to deep-sea ecosystems.

Today, as global fish stocks decline, seafood becomes an increasingly expensive item for the rich and a rarity for the poor. With the world population expected to reach 8.2 billion by 2030, the planet will have to feed an additional 1.5 billion people, 90 percent of whom will be living in developing countries many of whom depend on local fisheries.

Find out more about GEF/FAO Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction here, and other issues on the negotiating table for Rio+20 here.

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Ecology, Hope and Humans by Martha Shaw

Ecology and Hope

Van Jones on Ecology, Hope and Humans


By CSRwire Contributing Writer Martha Shaw

On the heels of the 2010 Social Venture Network Fall Invitational, Martha Shaw talks with Van Jones about “green” politics and why he suggests we look to faith leaders, CEOs and into the mirror for guidance.

You know Van Jones. In 2007, he co-founded Green For All, a national NGO dedicated to building a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. His first book, The Green Collar Economy, released in 2008, reached twelfth on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 2008, Time magazine named Jones one of its “Heroes of the Environment.” Fast Company called him one of the “12 Most Creative Minds of 2008.”

The cross-fire of political food fights.

In March 2009, Jones was appointed by President Obama to the new position of Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. His work to advance the Administration’s climate and energy initiatives, with a focus on improving vulnerable communities, was rather rudely interrupted by an aggressive campaign against him accusing him of everything from Marxism to disparaging remarks about Republicans in particular. Jones resigned in early September 2009. “On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones said in his resignation statement. “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.”

Rising above adversity, today Jones is a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress and a senior policy advisor at Green For All. He is a distinguished fellow at Princeton University at the Center for African American Studies and the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Van’s experience at the White House apparently had a worse effect on others than on himself. He looks at his days in the Administration as the opportunity of a lifetime to find out what makes our country tick. According to Van, he worried about our country, which is why he went in, and became much more worried after he came out. People across America were traumatized by what seemed to be a backhanded political motive to foil his policy reform. “People of all colors still come up to me in despair about how unfair it was,” says Van Jones. “They’re all upset and I say, ‘hey, you’ll be okay.’” But does he really think we’re going to be okay? Not if we are counting on Washington, where he saw firsthand what he calls “food fight politics.”

Looking to faith leaders, CEOs, educators and to ourselves.

Recently Jones addressed the Temple of Understanding gathering of international faith leaders and then the Social Venture Network Fall Invitational, where social entrepreneurs came together. He offered a narrative regarding how we relate to the Earth and its resources.

“This is a sacred room,” said Van addressing the eclectic collection of spiritual dignitaries at the Temple of Understanding event. “You are the people who hold the people, through the ceremonies in their lives, the difficulties in their lives. You will lead us through a transition ahead that man has never been through. We have been in an adolescent civilization. But we have to grow up, and people of faith are key to helping people mark that transition. Should spiritual people get involved in politics? Yes, because sometimes the problems get so deep that the walls between the secular and the sacred collapse.”

A time of hope and heartbreak.

Jones also shared a story about Paul Hawkins addressing a room full of low-income African Americans. He turned to a little girl who asked the question, “Why are some people poor?” Hawkins answered, “Some people have a hard time finding work.” The little girl then asked, “Well, is all the work done?”

“No, it’s not,” states Van. “When you fly over and see all the roofs without solar panels and bridges falling down, that’s work to be done. We have this rare opportunity — some of the most highly skilled best-trained workers in the world are not working. They’ve been called lazy union guys and bums by our radio celebrities. Our skilled workers aren’t given the right products to work on. The politics taking over are glamorizing sink-or-swim rugged individualism, where people who don’t make it must have problems, so let them sink. But we can fight pollution and poverty at the same time.”

Sharing success stories of hope.

This week Americans may cast misguided votes in response to bad economic news ruling the airwaves, where paid programming and paid news are the new norm. It can’t hurt to broadcast some good news, even to friends and neighbors. For example, there are more solar installers and wind turbine workers than coal miners, and these numbers are growing.

“Get out there and share your success stories,” Van suggested to hundreds of the Social Venture Network‘s successful entrepreneurs committed to triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) business, including B Corporations. “Good news is not making headlines. This is by design,” he continues.

One government site posting success stories in clean technology, energy efficiency and green jobs is The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). You can share your stories here — because there’s no harm in spreading good news and hope.

About Martha Shaw

Martha Shaw a contributing writer for CSRwire covering clean technology and other topics. Martha has been named an Adweek Creative All Star and is the winner of international awards in communications. She is a member of the Climate Literacy Network, Fellow of the Explorers Club, board member of NYSES and CEO of Earth Advertising.

This commentary is written by a valued member of the CSRwire contributing writers’ community and expresses this author’s views alone.

Is the environment a moral dilemma?

Religious leaders, philosophers, artists and scientists ponder the ethics of climate change

Submitted by: Earth Advertising Categories: Environment, Academia

Posted: Oct 13, 2010 – 12:00 AM EST

NEW YORK, Oct. 13 /CSRwire/ – This season, religion is playing an important role in the discussions around issues like pollution, water depletion, resource hoarding, and emission-driven atmospheric and oceanic changes.

Where does science end and morality begin? The separation of church and state in discussions about the environment is breaking down. As Michael Nelson, co-author of Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril puts it, “All big, BIG, changes in our culture were ethical shifts – we didn’t abandon slavery for economic reasons, it was about human dignity, about ethics. Women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc., are all the same – they are about morality at the end of the day.”

Recently there have been a record number of gatherings and publications putting the moral dimension of climate change and other environmental hazards on the table for dialogue, including the Northeast Environmental Studies Group (NEES) conference this past weekend.

The NEES conference is a yearly gathering of professors from dozens of colleges and universities in the Northeast. This year’s keynote session was moderated by Scott Brophy, Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and supported by a grant from the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation. Brophy is also member of interdisciplinary programs in Environmental Studies, Public Policy, and Law and Society and the Climate Literacy Network. “I was struck by the depth at which participants delved into the topic of morality, a topic often not addressed in the world of environmental science. It is dangerous to think that with enough scientific data, another IPCC report or a cataclysmic event, that a monumental cultural change will occur. I may be wrong, but it seems unlikely,” says Dr. Brophy.

So what is the magic bullet that will create the shift needed to leave a healthy world to future generations? Many are relying on the growth of a new ethical dimension, an inescapable part of the debate.

Writes The Dalai Lama, “The key I think is the sense of universal responsibility, that is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness. If our generation exploits everything available–the trees, the water and the minerals–without any care for the coming generations in the future, then we are at fault, aren’t we?”

NEES keynote speaker, Andrew Revkin, renowned author who spent 15 years as an environmental journalist at the New York Times, is now a senior fellow at Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies. “In confronting the climate challenge, all of the questions that matter most are only framed by science,” says Revkin. “Not answered by it.”

He also warns that clean energy, for all its virtues, will not solve everything. “Fossil fuels were a big part of the growth spurt, from one billion people to nearly seven billion people, in two short centuries. On a finite planet, where would limitless energy, combined with humanity’s infinite aspirations, take us? This leads to a question that’s been touched on here periodically. Does a shift in values and aspirations have to accompany the technological leaps that will assuredly be made in the coming decades?”

Revkin referred to the late Geologian Thomas Berry who thought that humanity was poised to shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric view. He called the effort to make this transition “The Great Work.”

Mary Evelyn Tucker, who with her husband John Grim runs the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, says, “Darwin gave us the broad sweep of evolution as we are beginning to understand it. Thomas has given us a sense of our role in that process as almost no other thinker has done. We are birthed from the universe and the Earth. Through us, these processes that have created life in all its immense complexity have also given rise to a conscious form of the universe. It’s not just a poetic vision. It’s not just a spiritual connection to Earth systems and the Earth community but it’s an absolutely vital urgent moment. We now have to earn our name–Homo sapiens.”

So, what sort of people are we? The Temple of Understanding (TOU), which has led the way in interfaith education and advocacy since 1960, will explore this at the upcoming 50th Anniversary Awards Gala on October 19th in New York City. The organization was founded by visionary, Juliet Hollister, with the support of a distinguished group of “Founding Friends,” which included Eleanor Roosevelt, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Sir Zafrula Khan, H.H. Pope John XXIII, Anwar al-Sadat and H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama, among others.

Recipients of the Award this year are Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Tala; The Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus; author Karen Armstrong; and His All Holiness Bartholomew Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, known as the “Green Pope.”

The TOU also recently organized “Art, Spirituality & the Transformation of Consciousness in the Ecological Age: To Promote a Moral Force for Environmental Action.” Featured panelists were Irene Hardwicke Olivieri, Artist and Naturalist; Robert Bell, Chairman Department of Economics Brooklyn College and Author of The Green Bubble; Dr. Kurt Johnson, Ecologist and Professor of Comparative Religion; Rabbi Lawerence Troster, GreenFaith.

A growing movement is recognizing that the industrial age has led us to the brink of disaster. Perhaps it is the artists, authors and spiritual teachers who will inspire us to step up our responsibilities as citizens of the Earth.

Sister Joan Kirby, UN Representative of the TOU spoke about how, together, Homo sapiens have the ability to create a new geologic period following the Paleozoic Era (543 to 248 million years ago) and the Cenozoic Era (65.5 million years ago to the present). The Ecozoic Era.

This is in sharp contrast to what filmmaker James Cameron coined at the American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference in August. The Idiocene. This purportedly follows our present sliver of time, the age of man, within the Cenozoic: the Holocene (12,000 years ago to present).

“We spend more money on potato chips than we do on clean energy research and development in this country,” says Dr. Arun Majumdar, U.S. Department of Energy, at the Cleantech Forum on October 12.

So what’s it going to be? “This a much bigger question than stopping particular sources of pollution or protecting particular natural parks, but goes straight to the heart of how we understand ourselves, and our traditions would have to bend to reflect these new understandings,” says Revkin.

Either way, relying on science to inspire humans to build a new relationship with nature seems unlikely. It rustles the feathers of the Christian Right, and sidetracks the topic to scientific methodology, giving us an excuse to sit back and wait for the next Progress Report from research institutions.

This next 20 years will separate the men from the boys, as the expression goes. Will we, as men and women of the 21st Century rise to a greater calling that could define us as a truly remarkable species? In a balanced eco-system, flora and fauna reproduce and live in such way that makes the world livable for the survival of their offspring. What about us?

Will we enter into the Ecozoic Era or the Idiocene Period? Some say we will get what we deserve.

Article written by Martha Shaw. Martha is a frequent writer on clean technology, environment and climate literacy. She is the founder and CEO of Earth Advertising, which promotes products and services that help to protect the planet, through social media, public relations, and 360º communications.