Many animal species use them for migration, reproduction, nesting and nursing: IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has urged the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to recognise over 120 marine ‘hotspots’ that fall in areas that need urgent protection. These scientifically assessed areas in the Western South Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Wider Caribbean, and Western Mid-Atlantic are important for many animal species that use them for migration, reproduction, nesting and nursing.

Invisible degradation

Highlighting the need for the country-parties to the CBD to recognise the scientific data now available on ecologically and biologically significant areas, or EBSAs, Patricio Bernal, IUCN Coordinator of the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative, told a press conference here at the venue of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD that the new knowledge can help countries take informed decisions.

“Ocean degradation is invisible,” he said, emphasising the importance of the issue affecting species such as tuna, sharks, turtles and whales.

Explaining the limitations of existing laws and covenants, Kristina Gjerde, IUCN Senior High Seas Adviser said the CBD called upon countries to cooperate in saving species, but did not provide specifics. The Law of the Sea was similarly vague and despite its three-decade existence, did not contain references to biodiversity.

The EBSAs provide scientifically valid data for countries to collaborate and make a recommendation to the United Nations General Assembly to launch a new approach on conservation beyond national boundary limits.

Ben Lascelles, Global Marine Important Bird Area Officer at Birdlife International, said studies on migratory seabirds using satellite tracking and GPS technologies showed remarkable patterns. For example, there were birds that made a trans-Pacific journey between breeding seasons.

New insights

To a question on the scope of the Convention on Migratory Species vis-à-vis the new efforts through the CBD, he said the CMS did not have the wide scientific base to inform the decision-making for protection that was essential. The EBSAs provided new insights.

The IUCN pointed out that only about two per cent of the oceans are protected, although they provide major services to humanity in the form of climate regulation, food, water and oxygen. With new tracking technologies, it has been possible to map the voyage of the Pacific leatherback turtle, among other creatures, and identify key marine areas.

In their latest report, scientists collaborating internationally since the last CoP to CBD have looked at the diversity of sea species, threats, vulnerability to climate change and impact of human activity.

The report was reviewed by the CBD’s scientific body in May this year. Unregulated fishing is leading to mass mortality among sharks, according to Dr. Gjerde, and plastics in ocean basins are contaminating the food chain. Industrialisation of the sea floor is another threat, emerging from seabed mining.