CMS COP13: Connect to protect wild animals
Biodiversity loss – a global environmental crisis
Along with climate change, biodiversity loss is the most pressing global environmental crisis of our time. Wildlife and ecosystems are being wiped out at unprecedented pace. Most recently, a comprehensive assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published in 2019 set off the alarm bells internationally. Every species that goes extinct is an irreversible loss in itself and a further destabilisation of the biosphere as a whole.
The IPBES Report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. Three quarters of the terrestrial environment and about two thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. The variety of threats and the cumulative impacts put enormous pressure on marine species and populations. In our efforts to avert climate change, a crisis most recently illustrated by the catastrophic Australian wildfires – which caused the death of billions of wild animals and have devastating effects on the entire biosphere –, the role of a healthy ocean for the climate has to be one major priority for all governments around the globe.
There are ample opportunities for protecting marine wildlife and the climate at the same time. For example, to stop searching for hydrocarbon resources in the seabed, to phase out offshore oil production and to reduce cargo vessel speed protects marine animals from dangerous noise and contributes significantly to reaching the Paris climate targets. These measures are core demands by OceanCare towards governments around the world. It also needs to be recalled that every population or species loss has negative effects for the respective ecosystem and undermines its healthy functioning. There we need to connect to protect.
With a team of three experts, OceanCare will attend the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS COP13) which takes place between the 17th and 22nd of February in Gandhinagar, India. We are delighted that on the 15th of February, a coordination meeting among civil society organisations and a Stakeholder Dialogue between CSOs and country representatives are part of the official programme prior to a High Level segment event.
OceanCare priorities at CMS COP13
Among the many relevant issues at the conference, we promote concrete action to address the “aquatic wildmeat” issue, civil society participation, as well as ocean noise.
There is a proliferating problem across Southeast Asia, western Africa, the Pacific Islands Region, Latin America and other regions that aquatic animals such as dolphins, manatees, turtles, crocodiles and seabirds are killed for food or fish bait. One of the reasons is industrialised, large-scale fishing, often from foreign fishing vessels, which puts massive pressure on coastal communities who are then forced to find alternative sources of protein or income.
OceanCare gives special attention to the wildmeat problem in West Africa. To address the situation, OceanCare aquatic wildmeat expert Maximin Djondo from Benin will participate in the conference and present precious insights from the region that are extremely difficult and very sensitive to obtain, including solution-oriented ways forward.
HIGHLIGHT: On the 17th of February, OceanCare will be co-hosting a joint side event on aquatic wildmeat together with the Benin Environment and Education Society (BEES), and presentations from Benin, Mauritania and Senegal. The opening remarks will be given by Melanie Virtue, Head of CMS Aquatic Species Unit.
INTERVIEW: Read the interview with OceanCare expert Maximin Djondo.
Civil society participation
With biodiversity declining faster than at any time in human history, we are about to miss key international commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Therefore, experts call for embracing transformative change, including innovative governance approaches.
NGOs are the voice for wildlife. CMS Partner NGOs invest combined financial expenses of more than US$ 20 million/year in CMS-related work, in addition to contributing long-term and in-depth expertise. These contributions need to be recognised and the work could be better aligned to the CMS Strategic Plan. CMS Partner NGOs are prepared to take a more formal role within CMS, provided a system is created allowing them to represent their work with formal standing, including full participation in decision-making.
In addition to international NGOs, local community voices need to be elevated into international discourse.
OceanCare has been involved in the civil society partnership process for more than 7 years and has been one of its driving forces. There has never been a comparable process in any other Multilateral Environmental Agreement. This is another reason, why it is so important that the process does not fail. Species conservation is at the crossroads and it is of utmost importance that governments and civil society organisations join forces and that the role of CSOs is strengthened. If this process fails, governments will fail and most depressingly chances to turn the tide on losing species are dwindling.
Of course, our long-running issue of underwater noise keeps us on our toes at COP13, too. Under the umbrella of the Silent Oceans campaign, OceanCare takes targeted steps since 2002 to curb the increasing underwater noise pollution. For CMS COP13, OceanCare has supported the development of a submission on Best Available Technology and Best Environmental Practice for Three Noise Sources: Shipping, Seismic Airgun Surveys and Pile Driving. This document is to facilitate efforts to reduce or mitigate marine noise pollution.
And we point to a win-win situation: to stop searching for hydrocarbon resources in the seabed, to phase out offshore oil production and to reduce cargo vessel speed protects marine animals from dangerous noise and contributes significantly to reaching the Paris climate targets. The presented document shall provide guidance to governments when they review whether or not to license noise generating activities as they shall always promote applying best practises in the various sectors.