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APEC to meet on ocean conservation

October 9, 1998
Webposted at 12:20 PM EDT

By Environmental News Network staff

Commercial fishing generates more than $20 billion annually in the U.S. In addition, travel and tourism produce $21 trillion in total demand and 89 million jobs.
(ENN) -- If nothing is done, by the year 2010 there will be more demand for fish than there are fish in the sea, says the United Nations.

That's a frightening prediction and Asian Pacific governments are taking it seriously. Next week, the first-ever Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative meeting on the role the ocean plays in regional economies will convene.

Hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its counterpart in Japan, the meeting will be held Oct. 12-16 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

What exactly is at stake? For one thing, commercial fishing generates more than $20 billion annually in the U.S. alone. In addition, travel and tourism produce $21 trillion in total world demand and 89 million jobs.

Who does it impact? The short answer, of course, is all of us, if we run out of fish. But also, about two-thirds of the world's population -- 3.6 billion people -- live within 60 kilometers of the coast and many nations depend directly on the sea for their survival, whether through fishing, maritime trade or tourism.

In 1996, U.S. trade with Asia and the Pacific totaled $920.8 billion, roughly 65 percent of U.S. trade with the world.

APEC was established in 1989 to promote economic integration in the Pacific region and to sustain economic growth. There are now 18 member countries, with 10 working groups, each focused on a different aspect of the economy. The meeting in Hawaii will be among those responsible for policies related to ocean resources.

Representatives from Australia, Chile, Canada, China, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, in addition to the U.S. and Japan, have been mandated to negotiate preliminary agreements on ocean conservation and management. It is hoped that a final resolution will result at the annual ministerial APEC meeting taking place next month in Malaysia. President Clinton will attend that meeting.

"The meeting will focus on three topics: improving coastal development and marine resource protection, ensuring safe and sustainable fisheries and supporting research on global climate monitoring and forecasting as they relate to fisheries," said Thomas Laughlin, deputy director of the NOAA Office of International Affairs. Other topics open for discussion include:

  • Red tides and harmful algal blooms -- These natural hazards, which are dramatically exacerbated by human activities, have become increasingly prevalent in the Asia Pacific Region and can have devastating local economic impacts as well as serious negative effects on the global production of marine resources.
  • Cyanide fishing -- Using cyanide to capture fish, a common practice in some APEC member economies, is devastating to fish stocks, coral reefs and biological diversity.
  • Aquaculture -- There is a need for a long term program to expand the use of aquaculture, while developing new policies and technologies to contain pollution from aquaculture production.
  • Seabird mortality in long line fisheries -- This issue has major implications for tuna and groundfish fisheries. Participants hope to agree on implementation strategies for cutting seabird mortality.
  • Registries of fishing vessels -- Asian fishing fleets, according to the Asian Development Bank, have the capacity to extract twice the amount of marine resources that the oceans can produce. Establishing fishing vessel inventories and registries to monitor the number of fishing vessels in the region as well as document the types of marine resources being harvested or collected would be a first step toward being able to sustainably manage the fisheries.
  • Bycatch -- A plan for economic and technical cooperation to reduce the marine resources wasted through bycatch and the discard of non-target or low-value species may be addressed.
"Our past, our present, and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depend on what we do now," said Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist who was recently designated a "Hero for the Planet" environmental hero by CNN and Time Magazine.

The Hawaii conference, titled Sustainable Oceans: Realizing the Opportunities for APEC Economies, represents the will of the APEC members to work together in promoting the health of the oceans and seas. Let's wish them luck.

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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