Posted on 19 May 2011.
Note to self: Always attend conferences held at castles. (Photo courtesy of Alejandra Goyenechea)
Protecting marine species
Defenders International program expert Alejandra Goyenechea is always on the move. This past weekend she traveled to Victoria, Canada (the capital of British Columbia) to attend the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress hosted by the Society for Conservation Biology, Marine Section.
The purpose of the conference was to address ongoing challenges to marine species conservation, especially those encountered last year during the climate change summit in Cancun, which failed to produce a binding long-term strategy for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
One major barrier to marine conservation and creating sustainable fisheries is finding reliable data. Many nations don’t report catch data, including small island countries that depend almost entirely on fishing for food. Improving data collection and establishing a clear baseline for fisheries will be essential to providing ongoing food security and conserving marine species.
Butch Dick from Canada's Songhees Nation delivers the opening address.
Other issues of concern include shark-finning, which takes place around the world and often goes under-reported or unreported altogether. Developing nations also lack vital resources to begin monitoring and managing marine species. Despite the trend toward establishment of large scale marine protected areas, it is imperative that we accelerate our progress in protecting areas of the high seas that are severely underrepresented.
While at the conference Alejandra participated in a focus group session titled, “Integrating science and policy: how scientists can help CITES advance marine conservation”. The group examined case studies that demonstrate how CITES can advance the conservation of traded marine species and how scientists can collaborate with CITES to ensure it achieves its stated goals. Alejandra also attended a debate on the effectiveness of international treaties for international conservation, which included a public discussion of ways to improve the accountability of signatory parties.
Climate change in the Americas
Last Friday, Alejandra was joined by Defenders climate change scientist Astrid Caldas for a lecture here in Washington, D.C. on Climate Change in the Americas at the Organization of American States. The keynote speaker was Christiana Figueres, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The main objective of this encounter was to give recommendations on what the Americas can and should do to combat climate change. We all realize, and governments are rapidly accepting, that every nation will suffer from climate change in one way or another. Climate change could be mitigated, but governments need to act quickly to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Climate change does not cause anything, it intensifies everything.” — Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of UNFCCC
During her presentation, Figueres reminded the audience that the U. S. Department of Defense has already recognized that climate change is a threat to its security. Ms. Figueres emphasized the following small steps for governments in the Americas to adopt for facing climate change, and to meet the 2⁰C maximum increase in the temperature of the planet by 2050.
- Promote sustainable development in adaptation and mitigation
- Implement the resolutions to reduce carbon emissions developed during the last Convention of Parties (COP) meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2010. All countries that attended the COP meeting in Cancun pledged to reduce carbon emissions and must follow through on their commitments.
- Support climate change adaptation in developing countries and push for technological innovation.
Coastal mangrove forests buffer ocean waves with strong root networks that extend above and below the tide.
In addition, Ms. Figueres highlighted the importance of saving mangroves in Mexico to mitigate climate change. Defenders Mexico office has been fighting hard to protect the vanishing mangrove forest from development and earlier this year helped secure stronger protections for four different species of coastal mangroves.
Figueres also touted plans to implement the “REDD+” program to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which now includes conservation, sustainable forest management, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Finally, the presentation closed by reminding us that no country can confront climate change by itself, and that cooperation and collaboration among countries is vital. The Americas need to use the opportunity provided by the negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, to further efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change.