World governments must stop destruction of forest and marine life

Feature story - January 9, 2004
Greenpeace today made an urgent call to delegates attending the Summit for Life on Earth, the UN meeting on the Convention of Biological Diversity beginning here today, to protect life on earth in all its diversity by providing money for protection of life on land and sea. World governments must also ban large-scale industrial activity in all large intact and sensitive areas and establish a network of land and marine protected areas with effective law enforcement and management. The 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity starts today and lasts two weeks.

"World governments have a huge task ahead of them," said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace. "They must take these next two weeks seriously. Now is the time to ensure the future of the world's forests and oceans and the life they sustain. Governments must honour their commitments to halt biodiversity loss by 2010."

In recent weeks, Greenpeace has highlighted illegal logging operations in Asia Pacific, plans to destroy the Patagonian forests in Chile and dolphin slaughter in the North Atlantic. These are all primary examples of how life on earth is rapidly disappearing.

Ancient forests are home to up to 80% of the world's terrestrial diversity of plant and animal species. Millions of indigenous peoples and traditional forest dwellers depend on these forests for their livelihoods and culture. But ancient forests do not only provide goods and services to local people. They provide freshwater for millions of people living in cities far away from these forests. Forests also regulate and maintain hydrological and atmospheric cycles on a global level. Many international pharmaceutical products are based on genetic resources and species from ancient forests.

As the life of the oceans are being destroyed, huge ecosystems, once thought to be inexhaustible, are collapsing. 90% of all large fish- both open ocean species such as tuna, swordfish and marlin and the large ground fish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder - have been fished out since 1950. Depletion of these species can cause, among other things, massive shifts in the entire ocean ecosystem where commercially valuable fish are replaced by simpler organisms-such as jellyfish--feeding further down the food web.

"Because the convention on biological diversity is really a convention for life on earth, urgent global action needs to be taken by the governments of the world, which means that instead of wasting time talking they should put their money where their mouth is and put up the cash for protection of life," added Kaiser.

"To prevent further devastation they should halt all industrial activities in large intact and sensitive areas-in both forests and oceans, and should ensure that protection is long term and legally binding," he concluded.