Sunday, 17 June 2012

Oceans Special: GEF rolls out investment project to address issues for areas in the high seas beyond national jurisdiction

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor

L- R Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Gustavo Fonseca, GEF’s head of natural resources

16 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The Global Environment Facility (GEF) will roll out a new project it hopes will address the plight of high priority areas for marine biodiversity and high seas fisheries.

And one of the likely targeted areas is the high seas in the Pacific that are outside beyond national jurisdiction, according to Gustavo Fonseca, GEF’s head of natural resources.

“It has not been decided yet but the Pacific is an important area because governments of the region have decided to already put some political backing behind it and decided that in those places that just happened to be outside of anybody’s jurisdiction.

“In addition, Pacific governments have decided to manage this in a more sustainable way. I think that will be one of the focus of the project but the project is still in design phase and it might very well be the case, Fonseca told PACNEWS Editor, Makereta Komai who is in Rio de Janeiro covering the Rio+20 conference.

GEF has set aside US$50 million in its current replenishment to pilot three investments projects to try and manage fisheries in a sustainable manner in areas beyond national jurisdiction and also establish marine protected areas in these areas.

GEF is the financing mechanism for three Rio conventions – climate change, bio-diversity and desertification.

“The project is now under implementation of the FAO and several other agencies like the World Bank, UNDP, UNEP and others, particularly addressing the plight of high priority areas for marine biodiversity and high seas fisheries. It brings together the private sector because what happens is that due to the over exploitation of fisheries is of interest to the private sector companies like big tuna canneries.

“This project is starting implementation right now and should run the course for the next five years, said Fonseca.

GEF’s interest arose from the need for global mechanism to regulate activities on the high seas outside the control of states.

“We have the Law of the Sea but it does not have enough teeth to actually do anything. We also have the regional fisheries management organisation but this is not a global treaty and they are regional treaties. We see the high seas as the last frontier to be tackled. It is nobody’s territory but everybody’s territory to exploit. We hope that if this investment can prove that we can do something right away, then we can appropriate more resources through replenishment to do the same thing, said Fonseca.

The project, Fonseca said, also hope to resolve the dilemma of who owns the resources of pockets of areas beyond national jurisdictions.

“What we want to do is to link investments that we have to what happens in the high seas. So we need to bridge this gap somehow and there is no framework yet or a treaty for this purpose. Eventually all the fish caught has to land somewhere and it becomes somebody’s business and therefore this dilemma needs to be solved, Fonseca said.

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