His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, President Emeritus of WWF International, delivered the keynote address at a press conference here today, asking governments to intensify their effort in the coming months, when there will again be opportunities to further their commitment to marine conservation..
The world's oceans are in a perilous state, said WWF's Director General Dr Claude Martin. While some governments made measurable progress during the past 12 months, most governments failed to take the critical steps needed to manage this last wild frontier and to ensure that its resources are safeguarded for future generations.
Today, WWF is challenging governments to stop considering the oceans merely as an infinite food source and a dumping ground, and begin taking their stewardship responsibilities seriously, he warned.
WWF noted some governments had taken critically important action during IYO. In particular, WWF cited Ecuador's new Special Law to strengthen the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which extends 40 miles offshore and outlaws industrial fishing in this area. In Turkey, the government established six new marine protected areas to help safeguard the endangered Mediterranean monk seals, and Portugal declared two new marine protected areas earlier this year.
In addition, the Government of Canada announced new measures to protect the Gully, an underwater canyon off Newfoundland, which HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has helped promote for years. In another positive move, governments finally agreed a timetable to phase-out toxic pollutants known as organotins, which are used in anti-fouling paints on ships and known to affect marine biodiversity worldwide. However, lack of political will appeared to be the main reason why the UN Fish Stocks Agreement - which sets new norms for high seas fishing, has still not been ratified by the majority of the world's leading fishing nations. The European Commission has ratified the treaty, but it will not take effect until each of the EU member states has followed suit.
Next week, governments will have another the opportunity to put oceans issues at the forefront of the environmental debate. The UK and Brazilian governments are co-hosting the first preparatory meeting (10-12 December) in London to set the ocean agenda for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development's annual meeting in April 1999. WWF would like to see problems, such as overfishing and marine pollution, addressed in a more substantive manner, and for governments to commit to implementing a global network of marine protected areas.
WWF will be looking for new commitments from governments to safeguard our oceans and their magnificent, but limited resources, added Dr. Martin.
For more information, please contact Leigh Ann Hurt at WWF's Endangered Seas Campaign at (44) 1483-419-294 or Olivier van Bogaert at WWF International at (41) 22-364-9554.