Our best lines of defence

IPSO's consortium of marine scientists and experts believes that we have a narrow window of opportunity in which to prevent the decline and collapse of the Earth's Ocean system. By doing so, we will give ourselves and future generations the best chance of survival.

Given the devastating effects of climate change on the Ocean, it is imperative that we minimize these and all other human-induced stressors as soon as possible. Our recommendations for doing so are outlined below.

There is an urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions in line with the most drastic cuts proposed in the 4th Report of the IPCC. However, even this will not guarantee that the Ocean will not be severely impacted by climate change by the middle of the century or earlier.

There is also a pressing need to develop carbon sinks to reduce current CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The current target of 450ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and/or 2oC temperature will not guarantee the viability of some marine ecosystems.

Marine capture fisheries are a vital supply of protein for large parts of the world's population. It is critical that the management of fisheries is improved for the sake of global food security in the future, as well as to mitigate their devastating impact on the Ocean. Improvement of fisheries is complex and demands action on many fronts. Some of these actions include:

  • Reducing the capacity of global fishing fleets.
  • Eliminating harmful fishing subsidies.
  • Introducing rights-based fisheries management practices to give ownership of fisheries resources to fishers and prevent the "Tragedy of the Commons".
  • Eliminating illegal, unregistered and unreported fishing through improved port-state control of fishing fleets, improving monitoring control and surveillance, and improving systems of traceability of fish products at all levels of the supply chain.
  • Improving international ocean governance, particularly with respect to the management of fisheries. This includes improving the means to enforce international law with respect to fishing (UNCLOS, UN Fish Stocks Agreement) and improving the functioning, transparency and accountability of institutions that are critical to the implementation of sustainable fisheries management, such the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.
  • Implementing technical improvements in fishing methods to prevent ecosystem-impacts, including the by-catch of non-target species.

A crisis on a global scale demands a solution of equal magnitude. IPSO believes that Marine Reserves are our single best hope for averting disaster at an Earth System level.

Marine Reserves are the marine equivalent of national parks. Based on the same scientifically-developed model we use to manage terrestrial over-exploitation, Marine Reserves are protected no-take areas. They are the Ocean equivalent of setting aside areas of the rainforest, for example, so that they can continue to create global oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

By building pockets of resilience, Marine Reserves will allow the Ocean to recover from the stressors we have placed upon it and revert to its natural state, with diverse ecosystems and healthy habitats. As such, Marine Reserves fulfill both an immediate need for protection and a long-term approach capable of managing our Ocean and all of the demands we make upon it.