A Chance for Protecting Biodiversity – OceanCare’s Opening Statement at the COP14 of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

February 12, 2024

OceanCare extends best wishes to everyone attending the CMS CoP 14 in Samarkand and we look forward to working with you constructively in the meeting. We are an international marine conservation organisation with a long history of working within the CMS framework, including with its daughter agreements – particularly ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS – and we are proud to be a partner to the Convention.

In particular, but not exclusively we are currently:

  • actively contributing to the workstreams addressing marine pollution, such as marine debris and ocean noise, and specific species conservation efforts with a focus on cetaceans;
  • contributing to intensifying the collaborative conservation efforts and support to regional and coastal communities to address the “aquatic wild meat” issue; and
  • helping in the further development of the conservation of animal cultures and promoting and supporting the science-based concept of Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs).

During the past triennium, OceanCare has contributed to and helped to conclude numerous tasks related to the CMS Work Programme, working closely with the CMS Secretariat and relevant experts, including:

  • The production of the Guidance document on “Best Available Technology (BAT) and Best Environmental Practice (BEP) for Mitigating Three Noise Sources: Shipping, Seismic Airgun Surveys, and Pile Driving”, which was published as Technical Series No. 46 in June 2023;
  • The review of the implementation of the previous Programme of Work on Cetaceans, including a gap analysis and recommendations for future priorities for cetacean conservation (UNEP/CMS/COP14/Inf.27.5.1a) (this evaluation was made in close collaboration with relevant COP-appointed Councillors and Partners);
  • Together with our partner, the Benin Environment Education Society (BEES), we assisted West African coastal States in the preparation and facilitation of a series of online-workshops which lead to the development of a “Draft Action Plan to address Aquatic Wild Meat Harvests in West Africa” (see UNEP/CMS/COP14/Doc.30.1.2/Rev.3/Annex 1/Appendix 2a); and
  • Providing support for numerous other initiatives, including an analysis of Fisheries Aggregating Devices (UNEP/CMS/COP14/Doc.27.1.2/Annex 1).

There has never been a more important time in human history for governments to intensify collaborative efforts and ambition in averting the human-made triple-crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has a vital role to play, as it provides wide ranging expertise and guidance to addressing these inter-related crises in support of meeting the global objectives of the Convention, those agreed within the Global Biodiversity Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 13, 14, 15 and 17.

In order to be successful, CoP14, hosted by the government of Uzbekistan, should continue its tradition of being an open, transparent and productive forum, allowing civil society to contribute fully to the core dialogues. This will further help to build effective working relationships and workstreams with all stakeholders. We also encourage member nations to maintain their support, including of a monetary nature, for the Convention and to guard against diminishing its ability to help populations and species in need by opposing any attempts to narrow its jurisdiction.

In response to the crisis that migratory species and their habitats face, OceanCare encourages Parties to

  • Support all the proposals to add marine species/subspecies to the appendices and commend the Programme of Work for Cetaceans;
  • Adopt ambitious Decisions and Resolutions identifying clear conservation actions and measures addressing and mitigating threats to marine species such as Fish Aggregating Devices, Vessel Strikes, Ocean Noise, Light Pollution and, in particular, support the new work proposed on marine pollution, including an intersessional workshop;
  • Adopt and support the Aquatic Wild Meat Action Plan developed by West African Countries and endorse the continued AWM work stream globally;
  • Intensify habitat conservation efforts by promoting the employment of the Important Marine Mammal Areas and Important Shark and Ray Areas concept and the protection of sea grass meadows; and
  • Employ strictest caution in the context of Deep-Sea Mining, an activity with so many unknown but potentially irreversible impacts on migratory species and their habitat, which therefore should not be allowed to proceed, recalling ISA’s obligation to ensure effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects.

We note the proposals to take matters forward on climate change and, in this context and more generally, encourage parties to build synergies with other international bodies, for example in the development of workshops where plans and approaches can be developed and carefully honed.

Making this CoP14 a success means halting the degradation of the relevant ecosystems and the threats to migratory species; it’s not just about hope, but the intrinsic understanding that there is no alternative to comprehensive, collaborative and precautionary action if we want to stand a chance of allowing species and populations of wild animals to thrive. This means properly protecting them and restoring their ecosystems. This will only come about if the decisions made at this and preceding CoPs are implemented, fully complied with and, where appropriate, enforced – and likewise the provisions and obligations of the Convention itself.

OceanCare will have a team of four at the CoP and if we can assist you in any way, please let us know.