The Real African|| By I.K. Cush
Good and bad news dominated the just-concluded United Nations Ocean Conference, convened at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
First, the bad news. By 2050, according to several experts who spoke at the conference, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Micro-plastics threaten the very survival of marine life, including sea birds and turtles. And, over one-third of fish caught have eaten plastic; a direct threat to human life because fish protein accounts for 17 percent of human consumption, exceeding 50 percent in many least-developed countries.
It gets worse. Over the past 30 years 55% of coral reefs were destroyed. Increased acidity in the ocean dissolved them. The result: more devastating floods in low-lying, coastal regions of the world; and, less fish for people who depend on fish protein for their very survival as elaborated by Melody Saunders Brenna, CEO of the Reef Life Foundation.
It gets even worse! Global malefactors who control huge fishing fleets steal $23 billion worth of illegal, unreported and unregulated seafood every year from developing countries, mostly off the West African coast, eviscerating the livelihood of local fishermen. These countries lack coast guard assets to protect their marine resources. In the developed world “we are eating stolen goods” declared Ambassador Peter Thomson, president of the United Nations General Assembly, referring to the billions of dollars of stolen seafood sold in the United States and Europe. Dr. Enric Sala of the U.S. National Geographic Society identified the malefactors, and proposed possible solutions that will end this ongoing grand theft of African nations’ marine patrimony.
Now, the good news. The global community of nations with support from the United Nations, multi-national corporations, Hollywood and academia are taking, and in many cases, have taken concrete steps to stop and reverse ocean degradation and mitigate the theft of marine resources.
Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Atlantic Group, conceded that the airline industry is a major polluter which devastates the environment, including our ocean. He’s doing something about it!
Adidas, the global sneaker behemoth, has partnered with the environmental group, Parley for the Oceans, to upcycle plastic into sneakers. Eric Liedtke, senior vice president and executive board member, global brands at Adidas wore a pair of the upcycled sneakers at the Ocean Conference and outlined Adidas’s strategic vision for this product line.
Hollywood’s Adrian Grenier of the hit show, Entourage, urged Conference attendees to stop using straws. Everyday over 500 million plastic straws are dumped into the ocean, killing millions of marine animals. “Stop sucking!” Grenier urged.
To combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the University of California, Santa Barbara will launch an app later this year that will enable ocean advocates to monitor, and report on, the activities of fishing fleets that are depleting global fish stocks and devastating the economies of least developed nations. Dr. Douglas McCauley, assistant professor and director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative at Santa Barbara explained how this crime fighting tool works.
Not to be outdone, IBM will deploy cognitive computing technology to identify rogue ships involved in illegal fishing. IBM’s chief data strategist, Steven Adler, believes that this new technology will enhance, exponentially, ocean advocates’ ability to find ships engaged in the grand theft of nations’ marine resources.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Agreement on Port State Measures is now in effect. This Agreement ‘seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing’ in our ocean. Effective enforcement of these measures will ensure the ‘long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources,’ according to an abstract of the Agreement.
Forty-eight countries have ratified the Agreement, including the United States, the EU which represents its 28 member states, South Africa, Mozambique, Japan and Guyana. Notably missing from the ratification nations is China, one of the major malefactors whose ships engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Under this Agreement, port officials from the ratifying countries are empowered to turn away ships suspected of being involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; thus, keeping their stolen catch out of lucrative markets.
President of the United Nations General Assembly, Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, said this about our threatened ocean: “The ocean is important to every human being on the planet because the sea provides the oxygen we breathe and the food that many of us eat.”
“Imagine a world without the sea,” ambassador Thomson mused. “We will all be dead, for there will be no oxygen!”