Richard Page (left) discusses Greenpeace's Emergency Oceans Rescue Plan with a delegate at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan
So today is my last day in Nagoya doing my bit to try and make sure that the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) gathers momentum and that governments create a global network of marine reserves. It is good to be in Japan again - the people of Nagoya seem especially friendly and helpful.
Two years ago I was lucky enough to visit the Tokyo fish market at Tsukiji with Callum Roberts, the scientist with whom we worked to design the Greenpeace proposal for a global network of marine reserves and Daniel Pauly, who has done much to raise awareness of the dire consequences of overfishing. We were amazed at what was on show, gleaming fish and seafood from every corner of the globe, including some species that the two eminent marine biologists had difficulty identifying. Seafood is one of the major elements of Japan’s distinctive food culture and if the wish is to sustain that culture into the future, consumers, the fishing industry and the government of Japan are going to have to actively support sustainable management and the creation of a global network of marine reserves in order to build up fish stocks and restore the health of our oceans.
I have mixed feelings about attending such a large UN meeting. It is an immense privilege to be here but also quite like being immersed in a large vat of treacle - decisions and actions take a long time to be finalised, even on issues that you would think were not contentious. This is exactly what happened with agreeing the criteria for potential marine reserves here at the CBD, or as they call them, “Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas.” (Concise and user-friendly language is not the CBD’s strength.) These criteria are used to identify areas of the ocean that are most important for their marine life – ocean ‘hotspots.” Despite the fact that there are only two years until 2012, the year by which the CBD is supposed to have established a global network of marine protected areas, the negotiators here are still discussing the exact next steps of applying the criteria and setting up a database of the most important ocean areas. They’d better get on with it and have it sorted by the end of next week or they will undoubtedly fail to make the 2012 target and more importantly fail our oceans and the millions of people who depend on them.
My next stop is Hobart in Tasmania, where I will be attending next week’s meeting of CCAMLR – the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources – the body responsible for the Southern Ocean. I am looking forward to it, as CCAMLR is leading the way in terms of establishing high seas marine reserves and last year created the first bona fide high seas marine reserve in the waters surrounding the South Orkneys. CCAMLR has now set up a process to identify other areas in order to establish a comprehensive and representative network of protected areas across the Southern Ocean using criteria that are similar to those adopted by the CBD. So come on CBD – now you’ve got the criteria, put them to good use. The CBD must save life on earth- it Can Be Done!
Richard Page is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace International, focusing on marine reserves and polar ecosystems. He is based in the United Kingdom.