Ban warns of untold damage, marking first World Oceans Day

September 7, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

See below the Secretary-General’s message on World Oceans Day. Regarding Saturday’s message on “The Next Seafood Frontier: The Ocean,” Sylvia Earle made the following astute observation:

There is not a word about what is being fed to the carnivorous cobia. Other than herbivorous catfish, tilapia and carp, farmed fish typically are high on the food chain and are fed large quantities of small, wild fish to grow relatively small quantities of cultivated ones. Not a good deal for the ocean! By taking millions of tons of the small fish species to feed to farmed fish (and cows and chickens and pigs) we are disrupting ancient ocean food chains, depleting critical links, including species that wild tuna, swordfish, marlin, dolphins, seals, whales, birds and other ocean wildlife absolutely require for sustenance.

Open ocean aquaculture of carnivores sounds great until you consider the whole story. There is merit in cultivating organisms that are low on the food chain (herbivores) in closed systems (more crop per drop), especially those that are linked to growing plants in association with farmed fish. Better control means the ability to provide food that is not contaminated with the many substances that now occur in wild fish of all sizes.

During ten thousand years of land-based agriculture, it became obvious that raising carnivores to feed large numbers of people is not economically feasible. The same applies to the life in the sea. The wild fish captured to feed farmed species are regarded as “free” except for the cost of extracting them, but depleting the ocean of vital parts of the system is not exactly without cost.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the first United Nations World Oceans Day with a warning of the “terrible toll” human activity exacts on the world’s oceans and seas, with a new report highlighting the threat of the rising tide of marine garbage. See http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=3905#

“Vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing practices, invasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day.

New York, 8 June 2009 – Secretary-General’s message on World Oceans Day

The first observance of World Oceans Day allows us to highlight the many ways in which oceans contribute to society. It is also an opportunity to recognize the considerable challenges we face in maintaining their capacity to regulate the global climate, supply essential ecosystem services and provide sustainable livelihoods and safe recreation.

Indeed, human activities are taking a terrible toll on the world’s oceans and seas. Vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing practices, invasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources. Increased sea temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change pose a further threat to marine life, coastal and island communities and national economies.

Oceans are also affected by criminal activity. Piracy and armed robbery against ships threaten the lives of seafarers and the safety of international shipping, which transports 90 per cent of the world’s goods. Smuggling of illegal drugs and the trafficking of persons by sea are further examples of how criminal activities threaten lives and the peace and security of the oceans.

Several international instruments drawn up under the auspices of the United Nations address these numerous challenges. At their centre lies the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It provides the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, and is the basis for international cooperation at all levels. In addition to aiming at universal participation, the world must do more to implement this Convention and to uphold the rule of law on the seas and oceans.

The theme of World Oceans Day, “Our oceans, our responsibility”, emphasizes our individual and collective duty to protect the marine environment and carefully manage its resources. Safe, healthy and productive seas and oceans are integral to human well-being, economic security and sustainable development.


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