Wednesday, May 5, 2010

G-20 Summit: Mission Blue, TED, and Oceana take on overfishing

After the disastrous March CITES conference, where conservation groups made heartfelt arguments for protecting tuna, sharks, and other critically important marine species - only to have well-oiled political machines representing commercial interests successfully block all proposals for protection - another opportunity for sensible conservation is presenting itself in June.

The G-20 Summit will be held in Toronto, Canada and several major conservation and think tank groups are working together to make up for lost ground. The Mission Blue project, a arm of the Sylvia Earle Foundation and supported by TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) - an innovation think tank - will be focusing on the government subsidizing of commercial fisheries and how that has exacerbated overfishing. With government support, commercial fisheries have pushed themselves into overcapacity, propping up an industry that is no longer economically feasible by perpetuating overfishing in a vicious cycle.

According to a press release from Oceana, who is also working with Mission Blue in preparation for the conference:

“'We believe that the G-20 nations have a powerful opportunity this summer to halt the practice of fishing subsidies and put the world’s fisheries back on a path to recovery and towards an abundant future,' said Chris Anderson, TED curator. 'Nearly all of the world’s fisheries are in jeopardy from overfishing and could be beyond recovery within decades if current trends continue.'

Despite international consensus on the dire state of the oceans, many governments continue to provide major subsidies to their fishing sectors. These subsidies promote overfishing by pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be economically feasible. The fleets are overcapacity – as much as 2.5 times what is needed to fish at sustainable levels. Destructive fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch.

'Governments are paying companies to overfish our oceans,' said Andrew Sharpless, chief executive officer of Oceana and Mission Blue participant. 'It’s taxpayer-financed ocean depletion and it’s crazy. Cutting government subsidies that produce overcapacity in the world’s fishing fleets is the silver bullet to restoring our world’s fisheries.'"

You can learn more about Mission Blue at their web site and Facebook page. TED is a fascinating organization with conferences and online videos that cover a plethora of subjects. And of course, Oceana is one of the leading ocean conservation organizations.

The G-20 Summit in late June - another opportunity to get policy makers attuned to the reality of many threats facing our oceans and the urgency needed to address them.

Read Mission Blue press release about Mission Blue/TED strategy.

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