How to better protect the oceans

This is one of the main issues COP15 Montreal until December 19 on biodiversity: achieving conservation by 2030, 30 % of ocean surface. This goal will form the basis of negotiations between the states. Only 8 today classified as % of oceans is protected »Recalls the French committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A weak part that hides a less brilliant reality. as explained Reporter A majority in the 2020 survey marine protected areas »in its current form, it struggles to prevent the destruction of marine life.

Many scientists and associations are working on solutions to improve them. When designed well, these areas actually have tremendous benefits for biodiversity and help mitigate the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. Review of proposed avenues.

• Increase the level of protection

This priority of priorities »According to Joachim Claudet, a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and subject matter expert. Very often, marine protected areas » only has a name. The vast majority of them do not have a high enough level to bear fruit. Intensive fishing and other harmful activities are allowed there, which undermines their effectiveness.

For example, in France, the government guarantees to protect 33.7 % of marine areas. But the work of Joachim Claudet and his colleagues showed that only 1.6 These areas have % protection level integral » Where high » — that is, legislation that prohibits harmful activities such as industrial fishing, mineral resource exploitation, or sand mining. Recently, the Bloom association showed that 47 % of industrial fishing in mainland France took place in natural parks, reserves or Natura 2000 areas.

In the rest of the world, the situation is no better. According to the figures of the Institute of Marine Protection, only 2.4 8% of the oceans are closed to industrial fishing vessels % must be protected. We can create as many marine protected areas as we want, unless they have a strong level of protection, they will have no effect on biodiversity conservation. »Joachim Claudet warns.

In France, areas are set aside in areas where there is no industrial fishing. Wikimedia Commons/CC BYHIM 3.0/Jiri Rezac

• Better selection of installation sites

Governments have an unfortunate tendency to create marine protected areas in areas where industrial fishing is almost non-existent. This allows you to artificially inflate your numbers without the risk of usage conflicts.

This is the case in France, among others. A poll published in late November found Bloom trailing reinforced security zones » In the Terres australes national nature reserve, eight behemoths between 55 and 76 meters in length have completely escaped the areas exploited by French industrial fishing vessels. The state does not pursue a policy of protection, but a policy of numbers », criticizes Swann Bommier, who is in charge of advocacy within the association. According to him, it is important for states to choose zones for establishing marine protection zones according to the threats they actually face. If 10 If % of the network were fully protected and located in coherent and representative areas from the point of view of biodiversity issues, we would already have completely changed the scale. »

• Build mobile territories

Climate change is pushing us into uncharted territory. The range of the species is likely to change in the coming decades. It can also affect the migratory dynamics of birds, fish and other sea turtles.

Confronted with this observation, a group of scientists proposed in a 2020 column in the journal. Scienceestablish marine protected areas mobile phone »whose borders could move in space and time ». This, they believe, will contribute build tolerance » ecosystems in the face of climate change. They explain that the contours of these areas can be defined and adjusted using satellite images, computer models or animal tracking. Measuring water temperature and acoustic detection of certain species can also provide clues to the evolution of ecosystems. According to them, about fifteen areas, such as the Sargasso Sea (in the North Atlantic) or the Agulhas Front (off the coast of South Africa), could benefit from marine protected areas with changing contours.

From a scientific point of view, it is an extremely productive and interesting field of research.Joachim Claudet reckons. But we already need to create static marine protected areas that actually protect. After that, I will be the first to ask myself how to move them. »

• Involve local communities

An article published in the magazine in May Advances in science suggests that marine protected areas are more effective when users are involved in their management. By examining the evolution of fish biomass in four marine protected areas in Indonesia, the research team observed that parks managed hand-in-hand with local people had, in some cases, richer biodiversity than those that resorted only to sanctions.

Similar results were observed in the Pacific and northern Mediterranean, says Joachim Claudet. With the support of scientists, it is often possible to involve fishermen, tourist operators or local residents in the area management process. do better » population to the project.

Counseling isn’t everything, but he insists. You also need political will, you need it. » Patience is also important. Fish populations in protected areas and surrounding areas take an average of five years to grow, which benefits artisanal fishers. You have to be willing to tighten your belt for a while to make it work. The time of nature is not the time of municipal elections. But after five years, the population no longer wants to live without it. »

In many areas, it is the Wild West. They must be protected before there is nothing left to protect. » Pexels/CC/keemkai villadums

• Give more resources to parks

According to a 2017 journal article Nature, marine protected areas without resources or personnel are on average 2.9 times less effective than others. The studied countries are not among the countries with the most developed economies. Even in rich countries like France, financing marine protected areas is a problemcomments Joachim Claudet. If their managers say they have enough money, monitoring, education, etc. »

Money is the news of warElodie Martinie-Coust, pilot of the Oceans, seas and coasts network of the French Environment, confirms. Today, the state pays more to economic entities that destroy biodiversity than to protect it. »

According to Joachim Claudet, monitoring systems for industrial vessels will also benefit from the development, such as the Global Fisheries Clock, which allows for real-time location information. Inadequate monitoring of marine protected areas does not mean they are ineffectivebut he says. This is because their level of protection is very low. Control will become a problem when fishing actually outgrows the no-go areas. »

• Investment in international waters

International waters cover 64 % of ocean surface. Unfortunately, there is no means of creating protected areas outside the sea exclusive economic zones » (EEZ) of states extending up to 200 nautical miles from the coast. International waters include ecosystems that do not exist elsewhere, Describes Joachim Claudet. In many places it is the Wild West. They must be protected before there is nothing left to protect. »

In 2018, a draft agreement on the protection of the high seas, which would create marine protection zones in international waters, was prepared, but the negotiations are deadlocked. There are still disagreements over the wording of the future mechanism with existing organizations such as the International Maritime Organization.IMO), regional marine or regional fisheries management organizations »Julien Rochette, director of the oceans program at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), told us in August.

One factor contributing to the erosion of biodiversity in the ocean following overfishing is the fragmentation of governance, Joachim Claudet believes. We take action on fishing in one place, maritime transport in another, marine mammals in another… This leads to inconsistent decisions, whereas for biodiversity everything is connected. »

The next session of negotiations on this agreement will take place in February. We all hope that this will lead to an agreement, says the researcher. If we make the ocean too bad, even the things we use it for will suffer. » Before concluding: We will soon reach a point of no return. »

Series: stopping the collapse of life World Biodiversity Summit – COP15 — held in Montreal from December 7 to 19. The goal: to prevent the mass destruction of living things. all this week Reporter takes a close look at the solutions already in place to stop the decline. Tomorrow we’ll tell you about biodiversity being brought back to the city, subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss it. !

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