In this February edition of Conservation Pulse, we highlight important marine conservation gains, progress with Europe’s most ambitious wetlands restoration programme, and the inspiring environmental leadership of two major retailers.
IKEA, committed to sourcing more sustainable cotton and helping the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) reach 10 per cent of global cotton production on the way to a target of 30 per cent; and John West Australia, which is sourcing Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) skipjack tuna representing over 40 per cent of Australia’s canned tuna market. On the oceans front, there is news of major protected area commitments in Indonesia and South Africa, and in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, gillnets have been banned from more than 1,600 square kilometres, helping prevent the accidental drowning of turtles, dugongs and dolphins. Meanwhile, the story from the Danube shows how WWF’s efforts over more than 20 years to secure forest and freshwater ecosystems in the Danube Carpathians – and building on an international agreement which WWF helped craft – continue to pay off. WWF proposes more extensive commitment to help restore and protect this priceless natural jewel.
Deon Nel, Global Conservation Director
Suds Sarronwala, Executive Director, Communications and Marketing
IKEA sourcing more sustainable cotton
The global household and furniture chain, IKEA, is the first major retailer to achieve the target of using 100 per cent cotton from more sustainable sources.
Cotton, when conventionally grown, demands large amounts of water and chemicals. Ten years ago, WWF, IKEA and several other companies created the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to advance sustainable cotton production. Five years later, the first bales of Better Cotton were produced in Pakistan and India. From initial engagement with just 500 farmers through WWF and IKEA projects, today more than 1.3 million are engaged in Better Cotton partner projects across 20 countries. Reaching nearly 10 per cent of global cotton production, BCI is aiming for 30 per cent. With significantly lower use of water, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, Better Cotton farmers see increased profits while greatly reducing environmental impacts.
Huge boost for sustainable tuna
The major Australian retailer John West Australia has committed to sourcing Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) skipjack tuna for more than 95 per cent of its canned tuna range, accounting for 43 per cent of Australia’s canned tuna market.
The company will now be selling over 100 million cans of MSC- certified skipjack tuna annually, the largest volume of MSC-certified tuna product being sourced anywhere on the globe. John West Australia sources its MSC skipjack tuna from the eight Pacific island nations that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which avoids the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs), thereby significantly reducing the bycatch of sharks, turtles, dolphins and unwanted fish. The PNA achieved MSC certification for their non- FAD associated purse seine skipjack tuna fishery in 2012. These eight countries together control 25–30 per cent of the world’s tuna supply.
A safer Great Barrier Reef for turtles, dugong and coastal dolphins
Australia is the world’s most important refuge for dugong, and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is home to globally significant green turtle rookeries.
Drowning in coastal gillnets is a major risk, so the creation of three new net-free zones covering 1,621 square kilometres of critical habitat for turtles, dugong and coastal dolphins – an area more than twice the size of Lake Geneva – is a significant conservation win. Coming into effect on 1 February 2016, the largest net-free zone (1,370 square kilometres) covers the estuary and coastal waters of the Fitzroy River, protecting the home range of Australia’s most southern population of snubfin dolphins from gillnets. The net-free zones were supported by a AUD10 million net licence buyback programme. WWF-Australia led the advocacy that secured these commitments from government, working closely with recreational fishing interests.
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New Marine Protected Area
in the Coral Triangle
An important new marine protected area (MPA) in the Coral Triangle region has been announced by Indonesia. This MPA will protect threatened marine species while also securing the livelihoods and food security of local coastal communities.
The 150,000 hectare ocean sanctuary at Kei Kecil Island and the surrounding waters of Southeast Maluku Regency is home to many threatened marine species including migratory whales and leatherback turtles. Apart from its ecological values, the MPA provides livelihoods for local communities through seaweed mariculture and reef fish fishing grounds. The beauty of Kei Kecil is also a major tourist attraction. The idea for the MPA came in 2012, when the Governor of Southeast Maluku and three Ratschap (local kings) became convinced that the sustainable use of marine resources and protection of ecological functions are important in securing the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.
South Africa to boost marine protection
South Africa is set to declare 21 new offshore and coastal marine protected areas (MPAs) covering approximately 28,000 square kilometres and achieving protection for 5 per cent of the country’s oceans.
The proposed MPAs would fill a critical gap in the country’s MPA network, which has yet to offer protection for the unique West Coast habitats and offshore marine environments including nursery areas and habitats for commercial fish species. This increased protection represents a critical first step in the government's blue economy plans which aim to achieve sustainable use of marine resources balancing protection with human benefit. Supported by WWF, this six-year initiative has included data gathering, an extensive mapping exercise, and two years of stakeholder engagement to identify the areas that best meet the dual goals of protecting vulnerable habitats and supporting economic development. After a period of public consultation, the final MPA complex will be designated later in 2016.
Keeping the Danube River alive
On World Wetlands Day, 2 February, WWF celebrated a number of wetland conservation successes – from Nepal and Zimbabwe to the Danube-Carpathian region, home to Europe’s last extensive wilderness of intact forest and freshwater ecosystems.
With local partners, WWF has restored 10,000 hectares of these wetlands over the past decade, reconnecting floodplains, removing fish migration barriers and supporting the recovery of native species, including sturgeon. Since the Danube Convention was signed in 1994, WWF has played a key role in Europe’s most ambitious wetland conservation programme, resulting in the protection of more than 1.4 million hectares. Shortly after World Wetlands Day, 14 Danube basin ministers endorsed the new management plan, which prioritizes floodplain restoration. WWF welcomed this and called for full integration of strategic biodiversity conservation into development plans to help prevent damage to freshwater systems from hydropower or navigation projects.