IUCN WCC Showcases Commitments to Ocean Conservation, Considers Motions on MPAs, ABNJ
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The Pacific Ocean Summit and a High-level session on 'Actions for a Sustainable Ocean' brought the conservation of the world's oceans and marine resources into focus at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC).

The Congress is expected to agree on motions to increase marine protected area (MPA) coverage and advance the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

word_conservation_congress4 September 2016: The Pacific Ocean Summit and a High-level session on ‘Actions for a Sustainable Ocean’ brought the conservation of the world’s oceans and marine resources into focus at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC). The Congress is expected to agree on motions to increase marine protected area (MPA) coverage and advance the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

Several leaders highlighted their commitments to ocean conservation during the opening ceremony of the WCC. Palau’s President, Tommy Remengesau, called on the IUCN Assembly to adopt the target of establishing marine reserves that protect at least 30% of oceans, underscoring the importance of protecting oceans and fighting climate change. Hawaii’s Governor, David Ige, announced the ‘Hawai’i Sustainable Initiative,’ to protect 30% of Hawaii’s priority watersheds and 30% of its near shore ocean waters by 2030 as well as to develop a biosecurity plan to prevent, detect and control invasive species, among other goals. US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, highlighted US President Barack Obama’s recent expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, creating the largest marine reserve on earth.

The Pacific Ocean Summit, which took place on 1 September, highlighted the role of partnerships and political will in implementing ocean commitments. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Solomon Islands, called for harmonization of legal frameworks and addressing the cause and origin of challenges, saying “we cannot manage the oceans, but we can manage the behavior of people using the oceans.” Participants also supported integrating traditional approaches into ocean resilience approaches and underscored the importance of action on Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources,” and the 2017 UN Ocean Summit to review progress towards this Goal.

The High-level session on ‘Actions for a Sustainable Ocean,’ which convened on 4 September, included two panels. During the panel on MPAs, participants observed that an insufficient amount of ocean has been protected and called for additional efforts to protect, conserve and manage the world’s oceans. Participants also urged achieving more sustainable fisheries and discussed how to better communicate about oceans to current and future generations. The second panel focused on governance and environmental and economic sustainability, with participants calling for addressing overfishing and plastics in the oceans.

The motion to increase MPA coverage expresses concern about pollution, over-exploitation, warming, acidification and biodiversity loss in the world’s oceans. It encourages IUCN State and Government Agency Members to “include the designation and implementation of at least 30% of each marine habitat in a network of MPAs with the ultimate aim of creating a fully sustainable ocean, at least 30% of which has no extractive activities.” The motion further calls for, inter alia: designating MPAs in ways consistent with the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities; and establishing MPAs in ABNJ, including through the development of a new instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The motion on advancing conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in ABNJ notes that nearly two-thirds of the world’s oceans is in ABNJ and expresses concern about the impact of human activities in these areas. It therefore calls on States to promote an internationally legally-binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ. Both motions recognize complimentary targets and activities in the SDGs and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The WCC is convening under the theme, ‘Planet at the Crossroads,’ in Honolulu, Hawai’i, the US, from 1-10 September. A number of ocean-related events are expected to take place through the WCC’s various sessions, exhibitions and pavilions, including a pavilion dedicated to ‘Oceans & Islands.’ [IUCN Press Release on WCC Opening] [IUCN Motion on Increasing MPA Coverage] [IUCN Motion on ABNJ] [WCC Website] [IISD RS Coverage of the WCC] [IISD RS IUCN Congress Bulletin, 1 September] [IISD RS IUCN Congress Bulletin, 4 September] [WCC Islands Journey]

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