As I look above me I can see parts of the coral reef hanging over my head. Sponges, encrusting seaweeds, sea anemones and more coral surrounds me. Dolphins hover close by... motionless. To the right of me people are watching the Discovery Channel and as I sit here quietly sipping my cappuccino to the tunes of Bob Marley I am talking to Karen (our Oceans Policy Advisor) in New York on Skype. No, I'm not dreaming! I am in the Dolphin's cafe in Amsterdam, using their wireless connection so I can stay up to date with the UN negotiations on bottom trawling.
All of us on the oceans team at Greenpeace have been keeping our fingers crossed for a positive outcome from the UN meeting in New York this week.
I sit close to Sari, who is the leader of the deep sea campaign, in the Greenpeace International office. She sits on one of those big exercise balls (instead of a chair like normal people!) and all day today she's been bouncing around, exclaiming loudly to herself as she receives e.mails from people all over the world about the campaign.
Sari persuaded a bunch of sea creatures to rise from the deep and ask Spanish Ambassadors at their embassies in Paris, Berlin, Santiago, Stockholm, New York, and Washington D.C., to protect them from destructive high-seas bottom trawlers.
I've been following the campaign closely since I spent several weeks out on the Grand Banks last year bearing witness to bottom trawling out there on the high seas. I witnessed some horrific things. These boats have nets the size of football fields with giant steel doors that drag across the sea floor holding the net open. The steel balls that span the opening of the net are larger than a human head and these destroy ANYTHING in their path. The nets can be dragged for more than 10 hours at a time! I find it hard to believe that this is a legal method of fishing. OK rant over...I'll get to the nitty gritty about what's been happening at the UN.
Over the past few days negotiations have been moving along at - what Karen tells me - is a "constructive pace". However, nothing has really been decided yet. There's a lot of legislation mumbo jumbo that everyone keeps talking about (and to be quite frank it makes absolutely no sense to me) but it comes down to just a few countries that seem to be throwing a spanner in the works - Iceland, Japan, Canada, Russia are the main ones. The rest of the countries including the EU seem to be heading in a very positive direction towards high seas protection with Australia and the countries of the Pacific leading the way.
Karen feels positive about what's to come but things are on a knife edge and just one country blocking a strong decision could throw it all away. We are literally all on the edge of our seats (well, those of us who are still awake! - Sari just went to sleep having been up since 4am working on this campaign) waiting to hear about what could be an historic decision on marine habitat protection. Apparently the room at the UN has been booked until 3am!
Karen's been sending the oceans team regular updates from the UN headquarters and while most of this is boring political stuff (for me anyway) some of her updates have been a true delight.
Here's a few snippets from Karen to give you an idea if what it's like over there...
"We unfurled the huge DSCC banner "stop deep-sea destruction" and did several interviews. Then went inside to defrost."...
"Tomorrow will be the day when the big fight is likely to happen and it will be key to see which way things fall. Wish I could be more specific, but just like the fact that we are sitting outside the negotiating room on uncomfortable couches under a pall of cigarette smoke, so too, is the air unclear (downright smoggy) on the outcome."...
"At 9.30pm tonight, a very exciting thing happened here at the UN: a mouse emerged just next to the couches where we are sitting and scurried along the floor next to the wall. It disappeared. Then, the delegates emerged from the meeting room for a quick break."...
"Ooooh, I just saw the mouse again ... it is now under a table surrounded by the UN night cleaning crew who are eating their 'lunch'."...
You can watch some of the recent goings on here on Oceans TV.
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