Breakthroughs, Launches, and Warnings on World Oceans Day Print fb
    Date: 2011-06-16    
    NEW YORK, New York, June 8, 2011 (ENS)
    The spectrum of actions marking the UN's annual World Oceans Day ranges from the celebratory to the cautionary as ocean health is assaulted by challenges that include climate change, oil spills, pollution and overfishing.

    New York's iconic Empire State Building will be lit this evening in purple, blue and white, from bottom to top, representing the different layers of the ocean in honor of the United Nations World Oceans Day.

    "An unprecedented environmental disaster, the Deepwater Horizon spill oiled over 1,000 miles of shoreline, 3/5 of them in Louisiana. Although the vast majority of the oil in the Gulf is now gone, oil remains close to shore in many of these Louisiana coastal areas, and the effects on Gulf ecosystems and communities will be felt for years. Communities and economies throughout the Gulf were devastated by the spill."

    The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative called on national, state and local officials to support effective implementation of the first U.S. National Ocean Policy to better protect local economies, national industries and encourage innovation.

    According to the National Ocean Economics Program, in 2007 the ocean economy generated over 2.3 million jobs and more than $138 billion of the GDP of the United States. The data show that 156 million people live in coastal counties, where they hold 69 million jobs that contribute $7.9 trillion to the U.S. economy.

    The report recommends: robust federal coordination, in particular enhanced collaboration with and support for states and regions; better collection and delivery of science and data to support decision making; and immediate investments that would increase government efficiency and effectiveness, including through establishment of an ocean investment fund.

    In 2012, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative will publicly assess progress toward implementing the National Ocean Policy.

    The Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting revealed the 2011 winner of the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment.

    James Astill of "The Economist" will receive the $75,000 prize for "The World's Lungs: Forests, and How to Save Them," an eight part special report on the state of global forests and the rising threats they face from human exploitation and climate change.

    New Consensus on High Seas Protection

    The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is celebrating. Last week at the United Nations, countries took the first, essential steps towards closing the huge gaps in international law that leave the high seas beyond national jurisdictions poorly protected.

    Countries agreed to establish a UN-based "process" that could lead to a new multilateral agreement under the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

    The process would address area-based management tools such as marine protected areas, as well as environmental impact assessments, capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology among nations.

    The high seas are the largest area of unprotected wilderness, covering nearly 50 percent of the planet and 64 percent of the ocean. Since 2003, IUCN has fostered international action to safeguard this "blue heart of the planet," said Gjerde, just as it supports efforts at the national level to conserve coastal and marine biodiversity within national waters.

    UNESCO's Inspiration: Youth: the Next Wave for Change

    To mark the day, UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission "join hundreds of aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations, and thousands of individuals around the world celebrating the day by participating in fun, inspirational, and educational events," the agency said.

    This year, celebrations around the world draw attention to the importance of getting young people in our communities inspired to protect the ocean, kicking off a two-year theme, Youth: the Next Wave for Change.

    In his message to the world today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "World Oceans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of oceans to humankind's sustainable development. It is also a time to recognize the many severe challenges related to oceans. "

    UNEP's Sustainable Oceans Case Studies

    The UN Environment Programme marked the day by launching a report calling for new partnerships to ensure sustainable development for marine and coastal environments.

    "Taking Steps toward Marine and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management: An Introductory Guide" states that closer partnerships between different marine users - such as fishing communities, the tourism industry and conservationists - can also help coastal communities become better prepared for natural disasters and the impacts of global warming, such ocean acidification and changes in sea levels.

    The report shows how sharing knowledge and best practices across different sectors can make marine management more effective, and offers guidance using over 20 case studies and success stories, ranging from polar ecosystems in Antarctica to atolls in the Indian Ocean.

    Europe's Plan to Ease Stress on Fish Populations

    At the GLOBE World Oceans Day Forum in London, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki warned fellow lawmakers and distinguished delegates, "In the EU too many stocks are overfished and catches are only a fraction of what they used to be in the nineties, and still dipping year after year. Europe has to rely on imports for two-thirds of its fish."

    First, the commitment to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015, which nations undertook in Johannesburg in 2002, has to become a legal obligation, she said.

    Next, Damanaki said she wants to put an end to discarding of fish caught in excess of a boat's quota. "It is unethical, unacceptable and certainly not justifiable to consumers anymore; therefore all catches have to be landed," she said.

    Vancouver At Risk of Oil Spills

    On the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver, British Columbia, environmentalists are worried about oil spills.

    To mark World Oceans Day, the Wilderness Committee is warning against the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill in Vancouver's harbor.

    "Vancouver is rapidly becoming the key point of export for tar sands crude oil on the west coast of North America," said West. "We are opposed to this both because of what this means for the fight against climate change and because of the threat it poses to our Pacific coast."

    West will speak Thursday at an event featuring U.S. author and activist Antonia Juhasz. She will introduce her latest book, "Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill," which reports on last year's BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its disastrous aftermath.

    "BP and the other oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico assured governments and the public that their drilling techniques were 'safe', and now today we are hearing from the oil industry that these oil tankers in Burrard Inlet are safe," said West. "So it's important for us here to be vigilant, and to consider the disaster in the Gulf when thinking about the massive increase in oil exports going through Vancouver's harbor."

    Mapping the Ocean Floor

    Starting today, armchair explorers will be able to view parts of the deep ocean floors in far greater detail than ever before, due to a new synthesis of seafloor topography released through Google Earth.

    Developed by oceanographers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory from scientific data collected on research cruises, the new feature tightens resolution in covered areas from the former one-kilometer grids to just 100 meters.

    The ocean floors contain volcanic ridges, peaks, wide plains and deep valleys, but most areas remain mapped in less detail than the surfaces of the Moon and Mars.

    The more accurate data is helping scientists understand the risks posed by some features, including earthquake zones. Viewers can visit Mendocino Ridge, where the Juan de Fuca plate slides toward western North America, and where an earthquake could potentially send a massive tsunami up onto land.

    Oceana Announces Ocean Heroes Award Winners

    Today, Oceana announces that Peter Wallerstein and Sophi Bromenshenkel are the winners of its 3rd annual Ocean Heroes Award. The adult and junior heroes will be officially announced on June 8th in conjunction with World Oceans Day and the start of Oceana's "Be an Ocean Hero" campaign.

    Peter Wallerstein, program director at Marine Animal Rescue in El Segundo, California was voted the adult hero for his commitment to rescuing injured marine mammals. For well over 20 years, Wallerstein has been a first responder and the hands-on caretaker of ailing marine animals all over the world.

    Eight-year-old Sophi Bromenshenkel of Richfield, Minnesota was voted the junior hero after raising over $3,500 for shark conservation.

    "This year's Ocean Heroes are truly impressive, largely because of their tangible achievements towards ocean conservation. Peter has 3,000 marine mammal rescues under his belt and Sophi, even though she is only eight years old, has raised thousands of dollars for shark conservation," said Oceana Chief Executive Officer Andrew Sharpless. "Individual commitments like these all add up and make a real difference for the world's oceans."