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Marinas Guardian at the Blue Solutions Summit

Marinas Guardian was honoured to be asked to present at the Blue Solutions Summit, held in March as part of the Volvo Ocean Lovers’ Festival. Our CEO, Jason Peers, flew out to Sydney and introduced Marinas Guardian to an enthusiastic audience.



L-R: Yvonne Levy, Jason Peers, Sandor Mulsow, Anita Kolni, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Carolyn Grant, Robin Melon, Sharon Thomas


For anyone wanting to know a little more about Marinas Guardian and why it was formed, Jason explains it in his short speech below.



“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen


It is a huge pleasure to be speaking at this important conference. Our newly formed NGO, Marinas Guardian, is committed to the rapid establishment and active management of Marine Protected Areas and the prevention of overfishing and illegal fishing throughout the Ocean. We all know how important the Ocean is to our existence on Planet Earth, indeed I share the view that we should have called it Planet Ocean!


Humans have increasingly used the Ocean as both a highway and rubbish dump with huge implications in terms of pollution including very damaging noise pollution. We have also extracted totally unsustainable amounts of fish and other wild marine life. This ongoing onslaught from fishing, both large scale commercial but legal fishing, and also from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, has to stop. The call to act on ocean conservation from scientists and conservationists has become increasingly loud and convincing in recent years and the clear evidence of global warming has reinforced the message incontrovertibly.


Now we need to be decisive, commit to saving the Ocean and demand impactful outcomes. The Ocean can play a major role in mitigating climate change but only if it is healthy itself. Much of the world’s ocean is under huge pressure from the cause and effects of global warming, overfishing and pollution. All of these need to be addressed now.


At Marinas Guardian we are determined to join the fight to reduce overfishing globally and to bring commercial scale Illegal fishing to a halt. Both are immediate threats to the Ocean and are causing potentially irreversible damage in terms of the effect on the maritime environment. This is also reducing its effectiveness to absorb and retain carbon. Overfishing causes many problems- through the removal of biodiversity, the impact of vast commercial ghost nets and other marine debris, and because both illegal and legal fishing have caused drastic declines in fish numbers, as well as the horrific impacts of bycatch. The IUCN estimates that 37% of global ray and shark populations are threatened with extinction and the WWF suggests that a third of the world’s fish populations are under threat from overfishing (WWF’s).


My own personal journey toward committing to a career in marine conservation stems from a deep anger relating to bycatch, and finning.


The good news is that these threats can be addressed quickly by decisive leadership and collaborative action and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas is central to this. We welcomed and celebrated the adoption of the UN High Seas agreement on 4 March.


However, it is likely that the definition of ‘protection’ will continue to be debated. For instance, the governments of France and Spain have apparently expressed their opposition to a proposal by the European Commission to ban bottom trawling. Incredible!


Marinas Guardian

Marinas Guardian hopes to be able to support governments, NGOs, the fishing industry, large scale and local, and affected communities in whatever ways they need in order to deliver on the promise of protecting more of the world’s marine ecosystems for the benefit of humankind.


We want to act as facilitators with the reach, science backed strategy and understanding to connect the right people together to turn enthusiasm into action for the Ocean.


30 % of the Ocean by 2030 is ambitious but a very worthy goal. But we cannot stop there. We cannot allow the abuse to continue in the remaining 70%!

The problem is not limited to MPAs. A cohesive, linked up approach is needed to tackle overfishing and illegal fishing throughout oceanic waters. Including:


● Define credible, science-based limits for fishing. Policy makers need to start accepting advice from scientists and marine conservationists and give less credence to lobby groups for the fishing industry.


● Remove all subsidies except those that support appropriately conceived and managed artisanal and community driven fishing, often exemplified by indigenous communities’ approach to managing their local fishing grounds.


● Police the type of nets used, the use of them at sea and track the nets to insure they do not add to huge problem of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear.


● Ban fish attraction devices

● Surveil all activities within MPAs and approved fishing grounds effectively


● Provide effectively equipped patrols and appropriately empowered law enforcement to interdict, and arrest illegal fishing fleets, and to prosecute their owners vigorously


● Actively encourage the use of technology to support the above

The challenge we face is that these measures are often not followed in the 7 percent of the Ocean that is already designated as protected, leading to many being described as ‘paper parks’. All the good work done at the UN and by our community in creating MPAs, will largely be wasted if enforcement is not implemented effectively now.


Madagascar

I have recently been investigating the situation in Madagascar when it comes to marine protection and it’s a great example of the challenge at hand.


Madagascar is a country that is one of the poorest in the world economically but one of the richest in terms of biodiversity and it plays a critical role in the ecosystem of the Indian Ocean. NGOs are willing and enthusiastic to support protection of the onshore flora and fauna and now huge resources are being supplied to help establishment of marine protected areas. One highly respected NGO told me they have refocused their efforts away from Madagascar as there is 'too much competition' from other NGOs. I was also told that Madagascar has no naval vessels to patrol these MPAs once established. Another partner of ours provides surveillance coverage on land but needs a naval force to work with to protect Madagascar's waters.


The case of Madagascar is extreme, having no vessels, but many island nations with huge territorial waters also have very few ocean-going vessels and often lack the confidence, resources and training to confront armed and ruthless criminals.


Part of the Solution

One answer lies in developing cost effective fleets of drone vessels, managed and supported by a mothership which can in turn link with aerial drones and space-based platforms to prove cost effective surveillance. This service can be extended by providing contracted policing support where local resources are either limited or non-existent. The services can also be provided to countries to support effective law enforcement where this exists or can be developed. This represents a more long term, and healthier solution. The technology and expertise to achieve this exists. We are developing these integrated solutions.


Technology

Human ingenuity is driving extraordinary developments in unmanned and AI driven platforms which can provide. Developments in robotics and acoustics are also very promising.


● Highly effective and affordable assessments of the marine environment


● Modelling of what healthy should look like


● Monitoring of the behaviour of marine creatures


● Cost effective surveillance from satellites, aerial drones, surface based and sub surface drones, and arrays.


And of course:

● Identifying suspicious fishing activities


Most of these solutions and services are being offered by firms focused on maritime security, the defence and coast guard sectors, but even now there is an uncomfortable relationship between the biodiversity driven marine conservation community and the maritime security sector. This needs to be resolved urgently if we are all to work successfully together on behalf of the Ocean and our future. For our part we are always working to expand our network of technology providers so that we can link them up efficiently with MPAs and NGOs at the right time.


Technology can also help develop “blue economy opportunities” in aquaculture, pharmaceuticals, carbon capture and sequestration. Success with this will need a healthy ocean and will further emphasise the importance of the Ocean to humanity.


Fragmentation

There are a huge number of organisations and individuals, committed to saving the Ocean globally. These are very committed and in most cases, making a real impact.

BUT this effort is highly fragmented, sometimes parochial in focus and always hungry for financial support. The latter leads to an unproductive sense of competition between many organisations leading to further fragmentation, wasting valuable time and financial resources and inhibiting partnerships and cooperation.

Donors are confused. Too much choice, and too difficult to triage and due diligence the choices. How many shark-focused charities are there globally, one wonders.

Crucially, front line countries are also confused by so many NGOs, technology and service providers seeking to help. Focus is and resources are needed on building the capabilities of these countries to develop their own solutions by developing their own human resources and institutions so they can take the right mix of support from the right mix of providers and to integrate them effectively.


Funding

There are an increasing number of funders willing to provide financial support for the creation of marine protected areas but the number of organisations that are willing to support ongoing management is much lower and those prepared to support 'enforcement' is limited to a very small number of foundations.


The reasons for this are to a degree, understandable, but nevertheless and notwithstanding these obstacles and sensitivities we need to work together with front line states to deter, and where necessary interdict, arrest and prosecute illegal fishing vessels and their owners.


The countries whose fleets are the worst perpetrators are continuing to allow their vessels to plunder the Ocean. Until they can be convinced to stop then the only solution is effective policing.


Similarly, pressure needs to be brought to bear on the countries that provide the flags under which these criminal vessels operate, either they need to be pushed to regulate more effectively or they themselves need to be prosecuted under international law.

I would also like to make brief mention of an issue in your backyard and to introduce the Newcastle-based, Major Projects Foundation, which has committed to addressing the problem of WWII era shipwrecks in the Central and South Pacific. These vessels sank with fuel tanks often full and many were tankers themselves. These are now 80 or so years old and are rusting and collapsing. Major leaks from these could cause huge damage to islands entirely unprepared to handle large-scale leaks. The MPF has identified 60 high risk potentially polluting wrecks, PPW’s, their work is exciting using, as it does leading edge technology and engineering, to address the problem. They need support and one of their team Matt is here today and would love to meet you!


In conclusion

We need to educate, educate, educate and educate, so that everyone understands the majesty of the Ocean, but also its fragility and the damage we continue to inflict with a clear message on its crucial role to our future both environmentally and economically and that if we work together, we can do this! The Ocean needs better PR management!!!


And

We need to act now to protect the Ocean effectively from legal overfishing and we need to confront IUUF head on.


I would like to thank all the amazing scientists, marine conservationists, many Australian, who have fought so valiantly an often lonely battle to get us to the point where we can now work within legal frameworks with growing government support and funding to protect the Ocean once and for all. Without their work we would not be here now,


Thank you also to Anita , Caz and Sharon for organising such a great event and for bringing us all together. Hopefully we will be inviting you all to a new Ocean Lovers Festival and Blue Solutions Summit in December this year in Dubai to coincide with COP 28”.

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