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Executive Summary for December 29th

In this weekly roundup, we report on an important milestone for protecting biodiversity on the high seas, a Sea Shepherd campaign to save the endangered vaquita porpoise and the end to a long-running protest against British Columbia salmon farms.

Published on Dec. 29, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

U.N. Resolves to Protect High Seas Biodiversity

A major milestone in a decade-long effort to protect 60 percent of the ocean came for Christmas this year.

As one of its last actions of 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that will launch formal negotiations to create a new treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas, the two-thirds of the ocean that fall beyond national jurisdiction. The resolution, which has 140 cosponsors and was led by Mexico and New Zealand, launches a series of four negotiating meetings that will begin this September and end in 2020.

The goal is to create a new framework for conserving wide swaths of ocean through marine protected areas and setting rules that require environmental assessments for activities that could damage marine ecosystems. What currently exists is a hodgepodge of international and regional bodies that govern aspects of activities on the high seas – or often, there are no rules at all.

Conservation advocates, which aim to eventually set aside at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans in protected areas, applauded the step forward. The real work will now lie ahead: Today, only about 5 percent of the ocean is protected.

Battle to Save the Vaquita Continues

A drone operated by the conservation group Sea Shepherd was shot down in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve while on a mission to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise and an endangered fish, the totoaba, from poachers, according to the organization.

The group had been operating patrol vessels in the Gulf of California’s Sea of Cortez to collect evidence on poachers, who target the totoaba for its highly valuable swim bladder, and confiscate the fishing nets they set. The nets also catch and kill the vaquita, whose population has plummeted to fewer than 30 individuals.

After hearing gunshots while the drone was investigating a suspicious vessel and then seeing the drone go dark after more gunshots, Sea Shepherd captain Benoit Sandjian concluded poachers had shot down the camera. Paul Watson, founder of the organization, told the Los Angeles Times that it will add a third boat to its operation and continue to work with the Mexican Navy to enforce the law.

Court Orders End to Long-Running Fish Farm Standoff

Since September, First Nation and environmental protesters in British Columbia, Canada have been occupying an Atlantic salmon fish farm facility owned by Marine Harvest Canada. This week, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge issued an injunction that orders an end to the protests.

Offshore Atlantic salmon farms have long been controversial on the Pacific coast. Some of the protesters from the ‘Namgis and Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations say they have the right to govern the area where the aquaculture facility is located, on Midsummer Island near Vancouver Island, and have tried to issue eviction notices to the company. (In November, Oceans Deeply profiled an inland aquaculture project run by the ‘Namgis First Nation.)

“We had sought this injunction after many months of protest activity and numerous failed attempts to begin dialogue with protest organizers,” Marine Harvest Canada managing director Vincent Erenst said in a statement. “Our staff must be able to work in a safe environment, free of harassment and intimidation.”

According to the CBC, the license for the facility is set to expire in June, and the activists hope the government will not renew it.

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