Partners of both the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) – which includes every supermarket in the United Kingdom, plus nearly 50 other companies, have published a joint position on Marine Biodiversity of areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) citing that although the supply chain rarely takes a stance on this topic, ‘biodiversity is everyone’s business.’
In advance of the fourth session of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference, seafood supply chain stakeholders have made their priorities clear. In their joint position, these businesses recognise commercial fisheries as the largest direct driver of biodiversity decline in the High Seas and call for the increased protection of these areas. They ask for Governments to conclude a robust global treaty as soon as possible, including provision of marine protected areas. This is the first ever public effort by members of the seafood sector to contribute to the BBNJ process in 15 years of negotiations.
“BBNJ” refers to the marine life found in the ‘high seas’, and is known to be a murky and complex topic. The ‘high seas’ encompasses the water column that lies beyond national waters – specifically, they are outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone of any country, and equate to almost ½ of the Earth’s surface. The high seas are largely unexplored, vastly deep, and teeming with marine life. At the same time, they are under increasing threat from overfishing, mining, climate change, and pollution. Only around 1% are currently protected and – due to the lack of clear rules and effective enforcement that follows – the high seas are notoriously difficult to manage and often subject to contention.
Nations across the world are working on creating an international legally-binding treaty to manage shared marine biodiversity in the high seas, and, until now, neither the GTA or SSC, or its partners, have stated individual positions on it. The coalition of retailers they comprise, though usually market competitors, have joined forces to publish a joint BBNJ position. They not only call on governments for action, but also hope that other organisations and businesses will be inspired to follow suit.
The voice of the supply chain tends to focus on seafood matters rather than biodiversity, however all seafood – including tuna – is part of a wider ecosystem. The health of this ecosystem is integral to the sustainability of seafood for future generations.
Giles Bolton, Responsible Sourcing Director at Tesco said:
“At Tesco, we want to make it easier for our customers to buy affordable, healthy, sustainable food. We are committed to sourcing from healthy marine ecosystems, however, currently there’s no robust global conservation framework for fishing in areas beyond national jurisdiction, or the High Seas. As a partner of both the Global Tuna Alliance and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, we are pleased a strong common position on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions (BBNJ) has been established, and call on governments to accelerate action for a Robust High Seas Treaty, including a 30×30 commitment for a network of Marine Protected Areas.”
Under this joint position, all UK supermarkets are included, along with nearly 50 other supply chain companies. This collaborative approach between competitive businesses is unique and amplifies the global responsibility that is necessary under the BBNJ treaty.
It’s the 21st century – sustainability is on everyone’s minds, especially with countries currently coming together for COP26. It was Paul Polman, ex-CEO of brand giant Unilever, who said, “Sustainability makes good business sense, and we’re all on the same team at the end of the day.” Competitors working together and taking ownership of social and environmental impacts makes it possible to achieve real, transformative change that no single group could achieve alone.
As well as profitable seafood supply chains, GTA and SSC partners want to source from healthy and sustainable fisheries, which are directly linked to a healthy marine ecosystem. This joint position demonstrates how these major retailers are thinking about the bigger picture, stepping forward to make noise and call on governments for action. Because after all, biodiversity is everyone’s business.
The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies who are committed to achieving more transparent, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable tuna fisheries. Operating over 10,000 stores in 21 countries across five continents, they use their collective purchasing power to influence the policies set out by the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs).
Dr Tom Pickerell is the Executive Director of the GTA: email@example.com
The Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) is a group of businesses that collaborate to tackle pressing sustainability challenges facing seafood supply chains in the UK. Its members represent all sectors of the seafood industry, from the largest retailers to individual fish and chip shops. Its vision is, quite simply, that all seafood sold in the UK comes from sustainable sources.
Oliver Tanqueray is the Sustainable Seafood Coalition Coordinator at ClientEarth: OTanqueray@clientearth.org
The Coral Reefs of the High Seas Coalition is a multidisciplinary alliance of partners that aims to generate the science, strategic communication, and support that is necessary to conserve coral reefs in areas beyond national jurisdiction. To date, the coalition has mostly focused its efforts on high seas surrounding the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges, two seamount chains that stretch across over 2,900 km in the Southeastern Pacific. Isolated by the Humboldt Current and the Atacama Trench, this region is home to one of the most unique collections of biodiversity on Earth. For many groups of organisms, nearly half of the species are endemic to the region and found nowhere else on our planet. Not only is this region a biodiversity hotspot, it is also culturally significant as Polynesian and others have recognized its importance for centuries.
Last year the coalition published several scientific studies that highlight the natural and cultural significance of the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges, including:
- A comprehensive review of the scientific rationale and policy recommendations for protecting the ridges, which summarizes information from close to 250 studies that have been conducted in this region, as well as over 10 years of fishing and vessel traffic data.
- A review of the maritime heritage and cultural significance of the Salas y Gómez & Nazca ridges, which synthesizes information on the 1,000-year old human history of seafaring across the ridges, as well as provides practical recommendations on how this information should be integrated into the design and eventual management of a protected area.
- A review of various global datasets on biodiversity and human use, which shows that the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges are one of the most promising places to protect on the high seas globally.
- Deep-water surveys conducted on both ends of these ridges, which recorded over 120 species, many of which are extremely fragile or not known to exist anywhere else on Earth.
- Deep-water surveys of seamount communities of the Nazca Ridge, which recorded 118 benthic organisms and showed that these environments are still relatively pristine.
- Habitat suitability models for deep-water corals and sponges, which show that these habitat-forming species are widespread across the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges.
- Surveys of back coral gardens found on the Salas y Gómez Ridge, which included some of the densest aggregations ever reported for these types of corals, and were shown to provide critical habitat for a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates.
- Descriptions of the complete mitochondrial genomes of two black corals from the Salas y Gómez Ridge, which have potential implications for future biomedical research.
Collectively, these scientific assessments underscore the importance of protecting the high seas surrounding the Salas y Gomez & Nazca ridges, which represent the largest and most threatened portion of the ridges. This could be achieved by:
- closing this region to industrial fishing activities regulated by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission;
- closing the region to seabed mining activities regulated by the International Seabed Authority; and
- establishing a high seas marine protected area once the United Nations Agreement on Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction is finalized and comes into force.
For more information visit www.coralreefshighseas.org.
Penguins’ warnings about climate change
In early January, Greenpeace’s ship the Arctic Sunrise set sail to Antarctica. On board were a team of scientists from Stony Brook University, who joined to conduct groundbreaking research on remote penguin colonies, many of which have never before been surveyed, in order to assess the impacts of a rapidly changing Antarctic on this important species.
Within a few days, the scientists discovered new penguin colonies not previously known to science.
The Arctic Sunrise travelled on to the Weddell Sea, where the scientists found that vast colonies of Adélie penguins have remained stable in the last decade, providing vital new evidence that these areas remain a climate refuge for Adélie penguins, a sentinel species.
The findings add more weight to the theory that the Weddell Sea may provide an important shelter for wildlife from the worst impacts of the climate crisis. The Weddell Sea is the site of a vast proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA), first proposed nearly a decade ago by the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR), and has not yet been delivered.
A window to Antarctica – giant portal appears in London
On January 24th, a giant portal (4m tall and weighing almost 4 tonnes) appeared in Trafalgar Square, London, broadcasting live from remote penguin colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula and bringing the remote and fragile Antarctic straight into the heart of a bustling city over 8,000 miles away.
Almost 5 million people around the world are calling for a strong High Seas Treaty
In February, giant ocean creatures, hourglasses and direct communications popped up around the world. Almost 5 million people globally are asking their governments to take ambitious action to agree to a High Seas Treaty. Eleven Greenpeace offices around the world (and counting) delivered this petition[PRK1] to their governments, stepping up the pressure as the UN negotiations taking place in New-York from 7-18 March.
From 9-11 in Brest, France, world leaders, governments, and civil society gathered in Brest, France at the One Ocean Summit, under the leadership of French President Emmanuel Macron, coinciding with the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, to raise the collective level of ambition on ocean issues, along with concrete commitments and calls to action. In the opening workshop of the Summit, High Seas Alliance Director, Peggy Kalas, moderated a high level panel on ocean governance that was co-chaired by Ambassador Rena Lee, President of the BBNJ Conference, included views on how to improve global ocean governance gaps as well as a call to action for conclusion of a robust BBNJ agreement in 2022 by Ambassador Waldemar Coutts, Director of Environment and Oceans for Chile. Other speakers included Secretary-General Henry Puna from the Pacific Island Forum, Ambassador Walton Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, Secretary-General Michael Lodge of the International Seabed Authority, Professor Dire Tladi from University of Pretoria, Francoise Gaill, CNRS and Ocean-climate Platform, Eudes Riblier, President of Institut Francais de la Mer, and closing remarks from Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, and US Asst. Secretary of State, Monica Medina.
On March 11, during the high level segment of the Summit, President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen announced the launching of a High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) that was joined by over 40 Heads of State (including all EU Member States), to achieve an ambitious outcome of the BBNJ negotiations in 2022.
Meanwhile, in the center of Brest, activists from Greenpeace France delivered a strong message calling for world leaders to deliver on their promises and turn words into action to protect the ocean. The world will be watching as governments gather at the UN to negotiate treaty text in the fourth intergovernmental conference taking place at UN headquarters from 7-18 March.
Brest, France: The High Seas Alliance strongly welcomed the news this morning of a high-level commitment by 14 Heads of State, and all 27 members of the European Union, to achieve a strong and robust UN Treaty to protect the biodiversity of the High Seas in 2022.
Author: Hannah Rudd
Another year, another meeting of world leaders to discuss the most pressing problem ever to face our global community. After a brief hiatus in 2020, the world came together in Glasgow, UK, in November 2021 to identify long-overdue solutions to the climate crisis. And yet, whilst it is now thankfully firmly rooted within climate negotiations, there was relatively little mention of the importance of ocean recovery in the bid to reverse climate catastrophe through resilience. Great strides were made for the world’s green lungs with the landmark Glasgow COP26 Declaration on Forest and Land Use, but what about its blue lungs?
Authors: Catarina Lorenzo & Lydia Rysavy
Right now, politicians from around the world are wrapping up their meetings in Glasgow to discuss climate action at COP26. All of their decisions – or lack thereof – will determine almost every aspect of our lives and those of generations to come. Climate may be at the centre of the conversation, but we cannot forget about the ocean.
Authors: Lydia Rysavy (Sweden), John Paul Jose (India), Milla Heckler (United States), Jihyun Lee (South Korea), Fabio Alfaro (Mexico), Catarina Lorenzo (Brazil), Olivia Livingstone (Liberia)
Whether you know them as the High Seas, international waters, or the Latin mare liberum, the bodies of water that lie beyond national jurisdiction are key to ensuring the survival of our planet and the human race.
It sounds dramatic, but the ocean —though often left out of climate conversations— is one of the most vital tools for tackling climate change. In fact, there are a number of reasons why healthy High Seas are vital for humanity; for example, they are one of the most important carbon sinks on our planet, having taken up around a quarter of excess CO2 from human-generated emissions. Furthermore, intact ecosystems in all parts of the ocean, including the High Seas, contribute to carbon transport and sequestration from surface waters to the deep sea, where it can be stored for long periods of time. And let’s not forget that ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves offer protection for coastal communities from storms and floods exacerbated by the climate crisis.
Author: Britney Hay
Beyond what the eye can see from our crystalline shores lies a vast and unexplored underwater world that sustains us all. Up to two-hundred nautical miles from State coastlines is the high seas, or international waters, making up more than half of the world’s ocean.
Author: Milla Heckler
In the Eastern Tropical Pacific, off the coast of Central America, there is a phenomenon that is persistent enough from year to year to be considered an oceanographic feature – it is referred to as the Costa Rica Thermal Dome and is an incredible marine biodiversity hotspot. Due to its high levels of biodiversity, the Dome is ripe for scientific discoveries and learning.