Local, small-scale fishing industries in developing countries face a barrage of inter-connected global drivers that threaten their existence. For example, heavily subsidized EU fleets are currently out-muscling the local fishermen of many west African nations. Fisheries in developing countries are also victims of unscrupulous mobile, marine traders (roving bandits) and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels. Roving bandits take advantage of slack trade local and international rules and sequentially harvest from unprotected marine resources in order to feed growing market demands fro marine resources (e.g. sea urchins for the Asian sushi market). Once a local fishery has collapsed, these roving bandits quickly move to the next, adjacent fishery and exploit it. The result is a sequential depletion of local fish stocks that literally pushes the boundaries for what is sustainable exploitation. IUU vessels are another great threat to local fisheries in developing countries. These vessels work on the fringes of international law despite various enforcement measures and international pressure on their flag states (the nation states under which these vessels are registered). IUU vessels frequently change their names and flags and regularly dumped catch, log books, computers and other potential evidence if they are captured. Taking action against IUU vessel owners is made even more difficult as ownership is often disguised by complex company structures, often in part registered in tax havens.
Can developing countries themselves take any steps to break out of these situations? The recent developments in Senegal give rise to some hope. There has recently been fears, stemming from statements made by Senegalese fishers themselves, that piracy (as seen in Somalia) might become a response to overfishing in the region by EU-fleets. Following this growing resentment and threats the new Senegalese government has now decided to revoke the licenses of 29 fishing trawlers. Similar moves where taken in 2006, when Senegal cancelled its licencing agreements with the heavily subsidised EU fleet in an attempt to protect its industry from foreign vessels. Back then dozens of giant factory ships registered in Russia, Lithuania, Morocco, Ukraine, Mauritius, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Belize and elsewhere were able to acquire new licences. The move comes in a critical period where Senegal is reviewing its longer term fishing policies. Greenpeace Africa welcomed the decision in an open letter to the Senegalese government.
As part of The Regeneration Project, the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey polled 642 experts in sustainability from business, NGOs, academia and government in 77 countries. Some of the results are sobering. For example, the poll found that 35% of surveyed experts are not confident that key influencers and decision-makers will even attend the summit (35%). And although experts agree that the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development are the right themes for the summit, few experts believe that the conference will succeed in making significant progress in the transition to sustainable development.
Interestingly though, while corporate entities were often thought to be at odds with the environmental and development goals of the 1992 Summit, corporate leadership is today seen as key to ensuring a successful outcome at Rio+20 in June 2012. The poll found 70% of respondents saying that global businesses need to work together to set priorities within an industry-specific context and 62% saying the private sector should both lobby national politicians on key issues ahead of Rio+20.
As we reported in our previous post, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in April 2012 after several years of international negotiations. This is a great victory for biodiversity and a powerful way to mainstream issues of biodiversity and ecosystem services into important sectoral policies such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and energy. IPBES will bridge the distance between where science “speaks” and policy is enacted and will hopefully lead to an improved understanding of biodiversity loss and its implications for human well-being.
IPBES also represents an opportunity to establish a dialogue between diverse knowledge systems, and to find ways for a diversity of knowledge systems to contribute to better policies. "Science" is one knowledge system that constantly generates new information and insights on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Other, equally important, knowledge systems in the context of ecosystem dynamics, sustainable practices, and interdependencies between people and nature exist based on the rich diversity of indigenous, traditional and local knowledge around the world. Unfortunately, these knowledge systems have often been ignored by decision making on ecosystem management beyond the local level.
This weekend saw the official establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Its been a long process to get this up and running, but now finally it exists and has the official backing of more than 90 governments. The IPBES aims to function rather like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and will hopefully lead to an improved understanding of biodiversity loss and its implications for human well-being. Hopefully, that will increase the political ambition to act in the same way as the IPCC has done for global warming.
We are welcomed to the Anthropocene. Almost everywhere right now. It all started with scientists declaring that the Earth has entered a new epoch—one that is characterized by human impact on the planet’s biophysical processes. After the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability held in Stockholm May 2011 the concept has been picked up by the Economist and Time Magazine, just to mention a few places. "If you haven’t heard of it, it is time to get out of your cozy Holocene cave", as Thad Miller from Portland State University put it in a recent blog post at Resilience Science.
The notion of the Anthropocene also dominated last week’s Planet Under Pressure conference in London. London was also the place for the launch of a new website "Welcome to the Anthropocene", which aims to inspire, educate and engage people about humanity’s impact on Earth. Its combination of high-level scientific data and powerful imagery seeks to help people visualize and better understand humanity’s geographic imprint in recent time. Does it work? Judge for yourself. Watch the introduction video below and visit the website.
SDUpdate is in London for the Planet Under Pressure conference. It implies we're spending four days in a huge and ultra-modern conference center far from the beautiful summer weather outside. It is, however, compensated by the many interesting, engaged and energetic scientists and other experts discussing global environmental change issues and actually trying to find and implement concrete solutions for a planet under increasing pressure.
Among many interesting things happening are a bunch of talks and sessions dealing with food security, poverty alleviation, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Another interesting food-related activity was the launch of the final report of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change launched at the Key Conference Session ‘Science-based policy actions needed to achieve food security under a changing climate’. The Commission was set up in 2011 to come up with concrete actions to transforming the food system to achieve food security in the face of climate change. Read its 7 recommendations targeted to policy makers here.
This week the famous photographer Mattias Klum visited the Resilience Centre for a seminar and workshop on the use of photography and science. The question that was central in his presentation was how scientists can communicate their science in an intelligent and passionate way.
How scientists usually (99 times out of 100) communicate their science
Graphs, tables, charts (for the natural scientists), pen portraits, case description, interview excerpts (for the social scientists) - this is how we, as scientists, often communicate science. For most of our audiences this works fine. But what do you do when you want to get your message across to a broader audience; an audience beyond the scientific communities of your discipline? Take, for example, our own ongoing research on Swedish “fishing styles” in the Baltic Sea. In this project, we are using a combination of statistics and interviews with fishers to analyze the diverse ways in which Swedish fishers fish in the Baltic Sea, but how can we make our scientific findings intelligible for a general audience? In the case of our research on “fishing styles” what we want to do is to provide an empirically rich and general understanding of fishers – their work, motivations and perspectives, but also the social and ecological environments in which they live their lives. Photography can be a powerful tool for such a goal.
It’s been almost 20 yrs since the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force on 29 December 1993. The CBD was inspired by the world community's growing commitment to sustainable development and represented a significant step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. It was also a result of the growing recognition that biological diversity is a threatened global asset of tremendous value to present and future generation. 192 countries, plus the EU, are now Parties to that convention. In April 2002, the Parties to the Convention committed to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity loss by 2010.
So, has the CBD been successful? Perhaps predictably the 2010 targets were not met, as summarized by the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report. Despite numerous successful conservation measures supporting biodiversity, none of the specific targets were met, and biodiversity losses continue.