The Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA) seeks to address overfishing, the most destructive force inflicted upon the ocean. Over 100 marine species are recorded as extinct, primarily due to overfishing. Population declines as high as 90-99% from historic levels have been documented for many species. Industrial fishing empties the ocean of about 100 million tons of fish each year, 40% of which is “by-catch” that is wounded or killed and then wasted, and other marine life including dolphins, whales, and sea turtles are harmed in the process.
Marine protected areas, or sanctuaries, limit the type and/or amount of fishing that can be conducted in designated areas and are essential to restore the ocean. There is data showing the effectiveness of sanctuaries, such as studies that found 200% more large fish species, 840% more large fish, and 1990% more shark mass in sanctuaries than in non-sanctuary environments. In addition to serving as fish replenishment zones, sanctuaries are reservoirs of biodiversity and help maintain the ocean’s resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Ultimately, they will play a key role in food security, as seafood products are a major source of protein around the world, particularly in countries where food scarcity is a serious problem.
Virtually every country with a marine coastline has declared one or more marine sanctuaries. Movements are underway throughout the world to create more of them. OSA believes this widespread commitment to conservation is a strong foundation on which to build a consensus towards a more comprehensive solution. But, we recognize the need for bigger and more coordinated action.
OSA has seen the impact of countries with sanctuaries coming together. An example is the work being done to protect sharks. In 2009, the island nation of Palau declared the world’s first shark sanctuary. Other countries followed, and now there is a strong coalition of countries with shark sanctuaries at the UN that advocate together and have had significant successes, such as getting sharks on the endangered species list and regulating shark finning.
While sanctuaries are gaining momentum, only about 2% of the world’s ocean is sanctuary, far short of the 20-30% recommended by scientists. Implementation of SDG 14, Target 5 would be a momentous step to restore and sustain fish stock and protect marine biodiversity needed to sustain marine ecosystems.
SDG 14 commits the governments of the world to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” Among the specific targets are to “implement science-based management plans to restore fish-stocks in the shortest time feasible” and “conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas.”
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
14.4 By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
14.6 By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
14.7 By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
14.a Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
14.b Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
14.c Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want