UN Ocean Issues

More and more people have come to realize the fragile and threatened nature of ocean ecosystems. There is a wide array of issues threatening ocean species and ecosystems. These include over-fishing, illegal fishing, bycatch, destructive fishing gear, pollution, habitat loss, inadequate management, and climate change. Scientists have shown that 75% of global fisheries are either fully utilized or overutilized; it was reported a few years ago that 90% of large marine predators have already vanished due to unsustainable fishing.

Currently, while 13% of the world's land areas are protected, less than 1% of global marine areas are protected, leaving these ecosystems exposed and vulnerable to continuing threats.  Further, there is near to zero protection of marine ecosystems and biodiversity occurring in deeper waters on the continental shelves and in the international waters of the high seas.

It is crucial that international leaders cooperate to ensure stronger conservation measures are implemented and enforced to guarantee the long term sustainability of marine species and the health of ocean ecosystems. There are a number of existing international organizations and treaties that have the authority to improve the state of marine biodiversity. Of these, the United Nations (UN) and its various processes and organizations plays a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of marine fisheries, particularly for those in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Pew engages with the UN, offering fact-based, nonpartisan, scientific research and expertise in order to aid decision makers in designing and adopting management mechanisms and policy decisions that will ensure the sustainability of marine resources. Pew engages in a number of UN processes including, but not limited to, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its Committee on Fisheries (COFI), the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS), the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ), and resolutions of the UN General Assembly on both Sustainable Fisheries, and Oceans and the Law of the Sea.  Pew works with government representatives within the UN system to achieve successes for marine conservation and looks to the UN to provide international coordination and oversight for strengthened high seas governance.



  • Finding Sustainability: Recommendations to the Twenty-ninth Session of the Committee on Fisheries

    Jan 13, 2011 - Recommendations to the Twenty-ninth Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

  • Bringing the Ocean Back Into the Earth Summit

    Jan 07, 2011 - The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) will take place in Brazil in 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It is being convened under United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 64/236.

  • Preliminary Findings from a Gap Analysis

    May 26, 2010 - A comparison of RFMO port state measures with the FAO agreement on port State measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

  • Ocean Science Series: Sharks - The State of the Science

    May 26, 2010 - The biological characteristics of sharks make them particularly vulnerable to overfishing. They grow slowly, become sexually mature relatively late and produce few offspring. This vulnerability is reflected in the large number of shark species that are considered to be threatened or endangered.

  • Closing Loopholes: Getting Illegal Fishing Under Control

    May 26, 2010 - The current system of port State control lacks transparency, accountability and the global reach to punish fishers who are illegally emptying our oceans.

  • Port State Performance: Putting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing on The Radar

    May 26, 2010 -  The Pew Environment Group has undertaken the first comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of current port State measures and the implementation challenges that port States face. The study also assesses the central role that Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) play in the process. The research focuses on port State measures directed specifically at vessels on the IUU-vessel lists adopted by RFMOs - vessels that have been found to engage in or support IUU fishing.  Imposing sanctions on these vessels at port aims at rendering their operations less profitable and lucrative.

  • Finding Sustainability: Recommendations to the U.N. Fish Stocks Review Conference

    May 26, 2010 - Despite efforts by the 18 regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and individual governments to manage fisheries since the last session of the U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) Review Conference in 2006, the vast majority of stocks managed by RFMOs are still either overexploited or depleted. A 2010 peer-reviewed evaluation of RFMO performance determined that two-thirds of stocks fished on the high seas and under RFMO management are either depleted or over-exploited.  Similarly, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), ‘‘In the case of straddling stocks and of other high seas fishery resources, nearly two-thirds of the stocks for which the state of exploitation can be determined were classified as overexploited or depleted.” These data confirm that RFMOs are failing to sustainably manage the high seas fisheries for which they are responsible and for which they should be accountable.

  • Ocean Science Series: High Seas Fisheries Management Gets Low Marks

    May 24, 2010 - High seas fish populations are declining in spite of management efforts.

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