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Environmental Security News This Week

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EU lifts Taiwan’s IUU Fishing “Yellow Card,” Forms Joint Task Force

On June 30th, the European Union lifted its “yellow card” warning on Taiwan, recognizing Taiwan’s three and a half years of reforms to combat IUU fishing. Taiwan and the EU subsequently announced that they would be forming a joint action task force to continue to collaborate on countering IUU fishing. The “yellow card” warning was part of the EU’s IUU Regulation, a legal framework that entered into force in 2010 to ensure that only fisheries products that have been certified as legal can access the EU market.  The EU had issued Taiwan a yellow card in October 2015 as a warning to take action to fight IUU fishing, particularly among its distant water fishing fleet. The initial EU press release on the warning three and a half years ago cited “serious shortcomings in the fisheries legal framework,” as well as a “lack of effective monitoring, control and surveillance of the long-distance fleet.” Taiwan’s distant water fishing fleet is the second largest in the world and has been repeatedly faced claims of illegal fishing, poor labor conditions, and human rights violations aboard the ships. Stimson experts are examining the implications of distant water fishing (DWF) fleets like Taiwan’s and will soon release a report detailing their findings.

Amidst Conflict, Deforestation Brings More Insecurity in Afghanistan

Over the course of Afghanistan's war, economic insecurity has helped drive illegal logging and the overuse of land, devastating the country's resources, a new Al Jazeera report finds. Local border communities, political officials, and the Taliban have been accused of illegally collecting and trading lumber across the border with Pakistan. Deforestation is a long-term trend in the country: Over the past three decades, Afghanistan’s forest cover has decreased by 50 percent. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, aerial bombing caused wildfires and increased the need for fuel, devastating Afghanistan’s environment and its forests in particular. While logging is illegal in Afghanistan, the government struggles with enforcement in the face of continued war, which continues to be a drain on its fiscal resources. Deforestation joins desertification and drought as just some of the many environmental challenges Afghanistan faces, trends which further threaten people’s livelihoods and capacity for resilience during an extended conflict. Both government agencies and NGOs have struggled to implement environmental resilience projects to communities over the past decade in light of security concerns. Recent strides have brought increased hope, however: In one new reforestation initiative, the government planted 8.2 million pine trees.

UN: Climate Change will Impoverish Communities, Climate Disasters Happening Every Week

Climate change will potentially push 120 million more people into poverty, a new UN report from the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights states. According to the report, those living in poverty will face threats like food insecurity, worsening health, and lost livelihoods. Climate change has significant implications, the report emphasized, for social and economic human rights such as the rights to life, food, housing, and water. The statement came just before the July meeting of a UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals in New York. A recent statement by a British economist at London Climate Action Week emphasized a similar connection between climate change and global poverty, arguing that climate change will reverse economic growth, threatening economic security for the globe. In a separate statement, the UN’s special representative on disaster risk reduction warned that climate disasters are happening globally now at a rate of one per week. As cyclones, heat waves, and floods threaten human security, the links between environmental challenges and security become clearer. Stimson experts are examining how communities in coastal areas can build resilience in the face of increased vulnerability due to climate change. In other climate news, the New York Times pointed out that as the rate of climate change is increasing, so is the demand for environmental reporting.

In Case You Missed It

New Research on Fisheries Management and Conservation  

One hectare of a marine protected area produces five times the amount of fish as an equivalent unprotected hectare, new research has found. In these marine protected areas, human activity is restricted and fishing is completely banned, leading to a resurgence of biodiversity. Recent research has also shown the value of more temporary fishing bans as a strategy for managing fisheries, although scientists say temporary bans are not a replacement for the more permanent marine protected areas.

Reforestation Makes Headlines

Reforestation across the world has been making news in recent weeks: Two separate studies found that reforestation could be an effective strategy to absorb carbon dioxide and fight climate change. But the two studies disagreed on where the trees should go. And critics say that planting trees will not work fast enough to avert the immediate climate crisis at hand.

Fishing Nets Pulled from Pacific Garbage Patch

Environmentalists pulled 40 tons of fishing nets from the Pacific Garbage Patch in June. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 metric tons of fishing gear is abandoned in the oceans each year, according to the Ocean Conservancy. Abandoned nets can entangle fish, whales, and turtles, threatening marine conservation and security.

Kenyan Herders Adapt to Climate Change

In Northern Kenya, pastoralists have been herding cattle for generations. Now they’re switching over to camels, who tolerate better the more frequent and intense droughts the region has been experiencing over the last two decades. As the world’s climate changes, communities are making adaptations like these to build resilience in a new climate reality.

Google Earth Illuminates Crimes at Sea

A new interactive map on Google Earth features research by investigative journalist Ian Urbina on maritime security issues from IUU fishing to toxic waste dumping. On the map, illegal boats are shown to poach fish off the coast of Puntland, Somalia and ships like the cruise liner The Princess Caribbean intentionally dump more oil every three years than the BP oil spill. Ian Urbina’s new book, Outlaw Ocean, will expand on these maritime security threats and is set to be released next month.