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TARGET 6 - Technical Rationale extended (provided in document COP/10/INF/12/Rev.1)

Quick Guide (Target 6)

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Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.

Target 6: By 2020, all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

Technical rationale: Overexploitation, including that which results from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, is the main pressure on marine ecosystems globally, leading to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem structure.14 Global marine capture fisheries are yielding lower harvest and contributing less to the global economy than they could do under stronger policies to manage fish stocks in a way that is sustainable. The World Bank estimates that this situation represents a lost profitability of some $50 billion per year and puts at risk some 27 million jobs directly and the well-being of more than one billion people.15 The main drivers of overexploitation, such as subsidies leading to over capacity, generally reflect governance failure at international, regional and national levels. Better management of harvested marine resources, such as through the increased use of ecosystem based approaches and the establishment of recovery plans for depleted species, is needed to reduce pressure on marine ecosystems and to ensure the sustainable use of marine resource stocks. For example it is estimated that the global fishing fleet is currently 2.5 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support. However, models suggest that, for some fisheries, on average, modest (~10%) reductions in catch could halve the pressure on marine ecosystems while also contributing to the long-term profitability and sustainability of fishing.16 (Where fisheries are already managed sustainably, no further reductions in fishing pressure may be needed, while in some areas greater reductions might be warranted.) Such a reduction in fishing pressure would substantially diminish the likelihood of fishery collapses. Other examples of destructive harvesting and management practices include bottom trawling and dynamite fishing, which physically damage marine environments, such as coral reefs and seamounts, which serve as habitats for marine biodiversity.

Implementation: The specific target should be regarded as a step towards ensuring that all marine resources are harvested sustainably, are within safe ecological limits and that fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species of vulnerable ecosystems. Actions that build upon existing initiatives such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing could help to ensure this. Actions taken to reach this target would help to ensure implementation, with respect to marine living resources, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its 1995 Implementation Agreement of its Provisions relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.17 Progress towards this target would also contribute to fisheries targets set during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development18 and build upon the diverse approaches and tools agreed upon there: the Ecosystem Approach; the elimination of destructive fishing practices; the establishment of representative networks of marine protected areas; and time/area closures for the protection of nursery grounds. This target would also contribute to the Johannesburg Plan Of Implementation (JPOI).19 In situations where fisheries are shared by several countries in a region, mechanisms, such as multilateral strategies, may need to be developed to allow for a coordinated approach to resource management. The programme of work on marine and coastal biodiversity is the most relevant to this target, along with the sustainable use cross-cutting issue.

Indicators and baseline information: Indicators to measure progress towards this target include the Marine Trophic Index, the proportion of products derived from sustainable sources and trends in abundance and distribution of selected species. However, for several of these indicators, additional data would assist with monitoring progress. Other possible indicators include the proportion of collapsed species, fisheries catch, catch per unit effort, and the proportion of overexploited stocks. Baseline information for several of these indicators is available from the work conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.20 Possible process indicators could include the incidence of cooperation with the scientific bodies of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.

Milestones:

Possible milestones for this target include:
  • By 2012, Parties should have taken steps to address the management of fishing capacity for international fisheries requiring urgent attention, with priority being given to those harvesting transboundary, straddling, highly migratory and high seas stocks which are overexploited, depleted or recovering;
  • By 2012, Parties should have eliminated destructive fishing practices;
  • By 2012, Parties should develop or update national assessments of fishing capacity and national plans for the management of fishing capacity, in line with the Ecosystem Approach, in order to halve the pressure on marine ecosystems by 2015 and end overfishing in both domestic and foreign waters by 2020;
  • By 2012, Parties should have submitted alternative fishing plans that comply with the principles of sustainability (economic and ecosystem) and should have begun to implement them so that, by 2020, they are fulfilling their goal to eliminate destructive fishing practices;
  • By 2012, Parties have taken steps to address the management of international fisheries requiring urgent attention, with priority being given to transboundary, highly migratory and high seas stocks that are significantly overfished;
  • By 2012, Parties should develop or update national assessments of fishing capacity and national plans for the management of fishing capacity, in line with the Ecosystem Approach, in order to halve the pressure on marine ecosystems from unsustainable fishing by 2015;
  • By 2012, Parties should have taken all actions relevant to a responsible Flag State, especially with respect to its fishing vessels operating on the high seas;
  • By 2012, Parties have prohibited subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing through the implementation of a transparent and enforceable mechanism;21
  • By 2012(2014), Parties have agreed, through appropriate Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, arrangements, or through the Food and Agriculture Organization, to collect, exchange and publish basic fisheries data necessary for the proper management of fisheries;22
  • By 2015, Parties should have restored stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield;23
  • By 2015, pressure on marine ecosystems from fishing is halved at the global level;
  • By 2015, Parties should have restored XX per cent of fish stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield;
  • By 2015, Parties are implementing measures for the sustainable management of bycatch and have reduced the level of discard by 50 per cent.

14Worm, B, et al. (2006). Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science, 314(5800), 787-790.
15The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. (2009) TEEB for Policy Makers, Summary.
16Worm, B, et al. (2009). Rebuilding Global Fisheries. Science, 325(5940), 578-585.
17Target 31(b) of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation reads: Ratify or accede to and effectively implement the relevant United Nations and, where appropriate, associated regional fisheries agreements or arrangements, noting in particular the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks17 and the 1993 Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas;
18Targets adopted in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation include: the application by 2010 of the Ecosystem Approach; to establish representative networks of marine protected areas by 2012; to put into effect the international plans of action of the FAO, in particular the International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity by 2005 and the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing by 2004.
19In particular Target 16 of the plan which states “To achieve sustainable fisheries, the following actions are required at all levels: (a) Maintain or restore stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield with the aim of achieving these goals for depleted stocks on an urgent basis and where possible not later than 2015” (http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/WSSD_POI_PD/English/POIToc.htm).
20Food and Agriculture Organization (2009). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2008. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Rome.
21WTO Pledge 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Text.
22Cf UN Fish Stocks Agreement, Annex I, Article 3.
23Johannesburg Plan of Implementation paragraphs. 30-32.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme