World Oceans Day 2012 comes less than two weeks before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. The conference, referred as Rio+20, brings together world leaders to strengthen international policies to achieve sustainable development through a green economy and improve international coordination for sustainable development.

imagesThe first major commitments toward environmental sustainability were made 20 years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. This event is a follow up to the Earth Summit and a major opportunity for ocean advocates to enforce the environment commitment made twenty years ago.

Hundreds of events across seven theme areas will be taking place during the two-week period leading up to the official UN meeting. These events, sponsored by governments and NGOs, are designed to communicate the critical environmental issues that need to be included in the final policy document adopted by the UN delegates.

Oceans” is one of the seven priority areas being highlighted at Rio+20. The ocean protection measures adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit by UN member countries are laid out in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, as well as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Here is how the ocean commitments made through the Convention on Biological Diversity are doing:

Aichi Biodiversity Target 6

By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are legally and sustainable harvested to avoid overfishing and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

In 2012: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 85% of the world’s marine fish stocks are over exploited. Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, destructive fishing practices remain as major threat to fish populations.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 10

By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.

In 2012: The World Resources Institute’s Reefs at Risk Revisited report shows that nearly 75% of the world’s coral reefs are in dire straits due to overfishing, pollution and unsustainable management practices. According to the IPCC, future losses of coral reef ecosystems are expected as ocean temperatures increase by 2-4 degrees Celsius (3-7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 11

By 2020 at least 10% of the world’s oceans are conserved through an effective network of marine protected areas.

In 2012: less than 2% of the world’s oceans are designated as marine protected areasimages.

Ocean advocates around the world can participate in the Rio+20 Dialogues to vote for the ocean future you want. Stay tuned for more news and commentary from the front lines of international ocean politics as I report from Rio+20.


— Annie Reisewitz, Director of Communications at Strategic Ocean Solutions

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