Governments Begin Considering New Ocean Conservation Milestone

Convention on Biological Diversity members will meet to advance new targets for protecting marine habitat

Governments Begin Considering New Ocean Conservation Milestone
Orca whales
Orca whales are found around the world and migrate thousands of miles for feeding and breeding. Increased ocean protections could make their journeys safer.
Jero Prieto/Pelagic Life

Nearly a decade ago, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a strategic plan that included a goal to protect at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020—the first global target set for marine protections. The CBD plan, collectively called the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, included other elements to reduce species loss and help ensure resilient ecosystems.

Now, just two years from the Aichi Targets deadline, how is the world doing, and what comes next?

Progress toward 10 percent

Significant progress has been made toward ocean protection in the past decade. According to the World Database on Protected Areas, about 7.4 percent of the ocean is protected, although some of those areas are not managed effectively or do not follow global standards.

World of Rays
Highly migratory species such as these mobula rays would benefit from an increase in marine protected areas and greater connectivity between them.
Pelagic Life

The path forward

Science has shown that current commitments are not enough. At the 2016 World Conservation Congress, members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which consists of governments and nongovernmental organizations, joined scientists in issuing a call to protect at least 30 percent of the ocean to ensure resilience to climate change, avoid the collapse of fisheries, and sustain long-term ocean health.

In addition, individual governments are beginning to call for wider protections. For example, in September during the United Nations General Assembly session, the United Kingdom government called for designation of marine protected areas in 30 percent of the ocean.

With the original Aichi Targets set to expire in 2020, governments need to take action at the next CBD conference of the parties and develop a roadmap toward further measurable progress to prevent biodiversity loss and sustain ecosystem benefits in the next decade.  The Pew Charitable Trusts will be at the meeting—which will take place Nov. 17-29 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt—to help ensure that the new targets are ambitious and include measures to hold governments accountable.

As world leaders focus on meeting the 10 percent goal for coastal and marine area protections over the next two years, they should also consider what they can do during the next decade to protect biodiversity and meet a new goal:  protecting 30 percent of the planet’s coastal and marine areas by 2030, the level that scientists say is needed if we have any hope of leaving future generations a healthy and sustainable ocean.

Liz Karan directs Pew’s work to protect ocean life on the high seas.

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In 1993, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force, ushering in a new era of global conservation. Recognizing the critical links between natural resources and countries’ development, the agreement aims to maintain the diversity of the world’s species and ecosystems and ensure that commercial and other use of genetic resources is fair, equitable, and sustainable.

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