July 1st - Environmental Security News This Week
Liberia signs the Port State Measures Agreement
On June 21st, Liberia became the 61st party to ratify the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the first binding international agreement to target illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Liberia joins Ecuador, Fiji, and Vietnam as one of the new parties to the agreement in 2019. Before joining the Port State Measures Agreement, Liberia had ramped up its efforts to combat IUU fishing by partnering in 2017 with Sea Shepherd to identify and stop industrial boats from fishing illegally in Liberia’s waters. Liberia has also participated in the West Africa Task Force, a regional body working to consolidate West African countries’ efforts to combat illegal fishing. Liberia’s accession to the Port State Measures Agreement complements these earlier national and regional measures. First implemented in 2016, the Port State Measures Agreement prevents illegally-caught fish from entering international markets, reducing incentives for IUU fishing. Earlier in June, the second meeting of the parties to the Port State Measures Agreement concluded in Santiago, Chile with renewed commitments for future meetings. Global ratification is critical and the UN FAO is working with signatories around the world to implement the treaty.
Chennai Begins to Run out of Water, Coinciding with India’s Heat Wave
Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, is running out of water. Satellite images show the coastal city’s dried-up reservoirs at 1 percent capacity due to delayed monsoon rains. Water shortages across India have coincided with a brutal heatwave: Communities have been reeling as temperatures in some areas passed 50°C (120°F) this month. On June 10th, Delhi’s residents experienced an all-time record high for the month of June--48°C (118°F). These high temperatures threaten human health, risking mortality among vulnerable populations like the young, elderly, and impoverished. Elsewhere, the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana have reported dozens of deaths. This heat wave is part of a longer trend in India: 11 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 15 years. The future could be even grimmer: According to a recent study, temperatures during summer heat waves in northern India could exceed what “humans could survive without protection” by the end of the century. In response to the changing climate, the Indian government developed a National Disaster Management Authority over a decade ago to help coordinate a response to heat waves, with some success in reducing heat-related mortalities. But heat waves also trigger other risks, like food and water insecurity. In at least one state, Madhya Pradesh, clashes broke out among residents competing for access to precious water. In Chennai, one person was killed in conflict over water as tensions rose. Protestors in another South Indian city, Coimbatore, gathered outside city government buildings to critique officials for water resource mismanagement. 550 of these protestors were arrested. These incidents anecdotally coincide with findings from recent research which suggests that climate change-related water scarcity and rising temperatures could increase the likelihood of conflict.
Mangroves Help Preserve Coastal Communities’ Economic Security
Mangrove forests--long known for operating as a carbon sink along coasts--also help preserve coastal economies, a new study shows. Globally, there are over 50 species of mangroves, or groups of trees that thrive in the salty soil along tropical or subtropical coastlines. Using satellite data, the new study reveals that mangroves helped protect coastal communities from longer-term economic disruptions following tropical cyclones: Communities with five meters of mangroves suffered longer lasting damage to their economic activity than communities with 25 meters of mangroves. These findings demonstrate how coastal habitats can be critical for maintaining economic security in the wake of disasters. Yet mangrove forests are continuing to disappear across the globe, even as climate change intensifies. Over the past five decades, 50 percent of the world’s mangroves have disappeared. The Sundarbans, a mangrove forest that protects the India-Bangladesh coast, is suffering from illicit logging and deforestation, leading to flooding that threatens home and farms. Mangrove forests are just some of the coastal habitats that help preserve coastal communities’ resilience. Stimson experts are researching how coastal cities can build resilience in the face of the multiple types of risks—political, economic, social, and environmental—that compound one another as a result of climate change.
In Case You Missed It
Stimson in Oslo, Norway to prepare for Our Ocean Conference 2019
Stimson experts visited Oslo, Norway this month for preparatory meetings for the 2019 Our Ocean Conference, which will take place in the city in late October. The annual Our Ocean Conference brings together foreign ministers and world leaders from civil society and the private sectors to find innovative solutions to conserve and protect the ocean and address marine threats like IUU fishing, climate change and marine pollution. The conference is about taking necessary action to sustain the lives and livelihoods of people and communities who depend on a healthy ocean for their future. Sally Yozell, the Environmental Security Program’s Director and Senior Fellow, helped launch the first-ever conference in 2014. The Stimson team continues to advise the organizing committee for each annual conference.
ASEAN Summit Brings Promise of Regional Integration on Wildlife Trafficking, IUU Fishing, and Ocean Waste
During the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok between June 20-23rd, Thailand proposed forming an IUU Fishing Network to combat IUU fishing throughout the region. In the vision statement for sustainability issued at the conclusion of the summit, the regional states also emphasized the need for a collaborative effort to address wildlife trafficking and to cooperate on marine waste.
China’s Qu Dongyu Named Director-General for FAO
On June 23rd, Qu Dongyu was elected by a comfortable majority the Director-General of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), succeeding Brazil’s José Graziano de Silva. As the current Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, Qu is the first representative from China to hold the influential FAO position. His appointment may lead to more scrutiny on the US and another opening for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, although Qu pledged he would be faithful to FAO “regulations and rules.”
EU Lifts Taiwan’s Yellow Card for IUU Fishing
The European Commission lifted Taiwan’s yellow card on June 26th, recognizing the “reforms put in place over the past three and a half years” to tackle IUU fishing, according to the press release. Since November 2012, the European Commission has issued 25 yellow cards based on the 2010 ‘IUU Regulation,’ officially warning states of the need to take action to combat IUU fishing. Most of these yellow cards have since been lifted, following consultation and dialogue between the EU and the countries.
Piracy Was Most Prevalent in West Africa in 2018
West Africa is becoming the world’s piracy hotspot, a new report from One Earth Future shows. The number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea rose 15 percent between 2017 and 2018. While it is unclear what is driving piracy off the coast of West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, previous research on the Gulf of Aden points to IUU fishing and economic insecurity of coastal communities as a driving factor in maritime piracy.