美國非營利組織「Oceana」執行長夏普萊斯（Andy Sharpless）這天在他的部落格指出，海洋和捕撈活動嚴重受到武漢肺炎影響，根據Oceana合作成立的全球漁業觀察組織（Global Fishing Watch, GFW），截至4月為止，全球商業捕撈活動下降了6.5％，歐盟等捕撈大國每週捕撈活動急劇減少50％以上。
Oceana副總裁、菲律賓辦事處負責人拉莫斯（Gloria Estenzo Ramos）表示：「商業捕魚者被抓到進入市政水域時，會以躲避海浪為藉口。實際上它們是在重要海洋棲地和海灣捕魚，這會破壞幼魚的產卵場。但是，今年武漢肺炎帶來空前的挑戰，需要適應、建立有彈性的系統，以及國際合作。
皮尤慈善信託基金會（Pew Charitable Trusts）成員桑多瓦爾（Luis Javier Sandoval）指出：「廣大的公海距海岸線200海里（約1,111公里），佔海洋的近2/3。這些水域不像近海生態系統那麼受到矚目，但它們必須被注意。公海充滿了生命，支持重要而獨特的生態系統。但是現在，所有公海生態受到人類活動和氣候變遷的日益嚴重的威脅，包括海洋暖化和酸化。」
「越來越多科學機構同意，海洋保護區（Marine protected areas, MPA）是保護和復育海洋健康的最有效工具之一，但是在當前的海洋管理體系下，大部分公海無法建立全面的MPA。」
The World Oceans Day Theme for 2020 is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean,” but the coronavirus pandemic is top-of-mind today as the world focuses on the health of the oceans.
“Oceans and fishing have been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Andy Sharpless blogged today to mark World Oceans Day 2020. The CEO of the U.S. nonprofit group Oceana, Sharpless offers new data from Global Fishing Watch, an organization that Oceana co-founded, showing that global commercial fishing activity through April was down 6.5 percent.
“Large-scale fishing nations, like those in the European Union, experienced a dramatic reduction in weekly fishing activity of 50 percent or more,” he said.
Both GFW and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, assessed the impact of COVID-19 on fisheries and aquaculture and found small-scale fishers have likely been some of the hardest hit in the fishing community.
With fish markets closed around the world, small-scale and artisanal fishers have nowhere to sell their catch, Sharpless explained.
Still, the global, multi-billion-dollar-a-year illicit fishing industry persists and has even been thriving during the pandemic.
FAO says 87 percent of those surveyed in the fishing community with roles in monitoring, control, and surveillance report that the impact of COVID-19 is having, or is expected to have negative consequences on the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Now, due to a lack of enforcement and observer coverage because of the coronavirus, illegal fishing is on the rise, especially in the Philippines, where the reduced patrols due to the coronavirus lockdown gave IUU fishers an opening to harvest areas usually closed to them, satellite tracking data indicate.
Oceana Philippines created a group called Karagatan Patrol, a platform for citizens to report illegal fishing in municipal waters in coordination with law enforcement. Karagatan Patrol tracks ships through the visible infrared imaging radiometer suite, VIIRS, a satellite-based tool that detects the high-radiance lure lights used by commercial fishing vessels.
In a single week in May, the Karagatan Patrol reported a 154 percent increase of boats operating illegally in Philippine municipal waters.
“The excuse of commercial fishing operators found plying on the municipal water is that they are hiding from high waves,” Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana vice president and head of its Philippines office, told the news outlet Mongabay. “In reality, they go fishing in bays and gulfs that are critical marine habitats that will destroy spawning grounds of young fishes.”
“This year, however, the unprecedented challenges with COVID-19 have demonstrated the need to adapt, build resilient systems, and, above all, cooperate internationally.
Six out of the 10 largest fisheries in the world are in Asia – China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines – and 34 million people in the Asia-Pacific region are engaged in commercial fishing, according to the Asian Development Bank.
But the region’s ocean ecosystems “have been pushed to the brink of collapse,” the Bank says in its 2019 plan for healthy oceans. “Half of all coral reefs have disappeared, fish stocks and marine species are in decline, the ocean is getting warmer and more acidic, and sea levels are rising. If fish stocks continue to deteriorate as predicted, the implications could be catastrophic for millions of people who depend on fisheries for food and livelihood to survive,” the Bank warned.
There are also consequences around the world that flow from the fact that research, assessments, and observer coverage is being delayed or abandoned because of the pandemic.
In Alaska, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has officially canceled nearly all their fish surveys this season. This loss of data causes a ripple effect on estimates of fish abundance, stock assessments, and quotas. Fisheries management decisions made on incomplete data are less effective and can impact ocean abundance for years to come.
NOAA scientists are forecasting this summer’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic area or “dead zone,” an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life, to be roughly 6,700 square miles, larger than the long-term average measured size of 5,387 square miles but less than the record of 8,776 square miles set in 2017. The annual prediction is based on U.S. Geological Survey river-flow and nutrient data.
The annual summer Gulf of Mexico dead zone is caused by excess nutrient pollution from human activities throughout the Mississippi River watershed. When the excess nutrients reach the Gulf, they stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which die and decompose, depleting oxygen as they sink to the bottom.
The resulting low oxygen levels near the bottom of the Gulf cannot support most marine life. Fish, shrimp and crabs often swim out of the area, but animals that are unable to swim or move away are stressed or killed by the low oxygen.
“Not only does the dead zone hurt marine life, but it also harms commercial and recreational fisheries and the communities they support,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “The annual dead zone makes large areas unavailable for species that depend on them for their survival and places continued strain on the region’s living resources and coastal economies.”
It’s not only coastal communities that are suffering the effects of the changing oceans – suffering continues on the high seas.
Luis Javier Sandoval of the Pew Charitable Trusts wrote in March, “The high seas are distant and vast, starting 200 nautical miles from the shoreline and making up nearly two-thirds of the ocean. These waters don’t get the attention of closer-to-shore ecosystems, but they should. The high seas are teeming with life and support important and unique ecosystems. Now, however, all of that is under increasing threat from human activities and climate change, which is making the ocean warmer and more acidic.”
“Marine protected areas, MPAs, are among the most effective tools for conserving and restoring ocean health, according to a growing body of science, but under the current system of ocean management, there is no way to establish comprehensive MPAs for most parts of the high seas,” Sandoval writes on the Pew Trusts website.
A United Nations treaty on marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction aims to address this gap by enabling, among other things, the creation of high seas MPAs. UN negotiations on that agreement are scheduled to conclude this year.
Moreover, as the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, marine biodiversity and essential food chains are increasingly being jeopardized. And plastic pollution has become ubiquitous.
Against this backdrop, Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean has been chosen as this year’s theme for World Oceans Day.
Better understanding of the oceans is essential for conserving fish stocks and discovering new products and medicines.
“The upcoming United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will provide impetus and a common framework for action,” the UN chief said, urging governments and all concerned to commit innovation and science to conserve and sustain the world’s oceans.