Technical workshop for establishing a regular process for the global assessment of the marine environment

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Working Document




Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) Approach to the Global International Water Assessment (GIWA)

Secretariat Note:
Dr. Kenneth Sherman made a presentation on the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) Approach to the Global International Water Assessment (GIWA), which summarized the joint NOAA/GEF report “A New Imperative for Improving Management of Large Marine Ecosystems”. This report had been presented to the Rio + 10 Conference held at IOC/UNESCO, Paris on 3-7 December 2001.
An extended abstract of this report, proceeded by some background information on the current activities on LME Briefs, is attached.

LME Briefs
A total of 50 of the GIWA sub areas are LMEs. At present, NOAA is completing a series of briefs of the contemporary conditions within each of the 64 Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). The briefs are prepared according to a modular approach for assessing ecological conditions with respect to: (1) productivity, (2) fish and fisheries, (3) pollution and ecosystem health, (4) socioeconomics, and (5) governance of the LME. Briefs for 27 LMEs have been completed under contract to NOAA by Dr. Marie Christine Aquarone. She is presently preparing briefs for the remaining 37 LMEs. NOAA would be pleased to make the information available to GIWA when the analysis is completed. Other LME products in production in collaboration with the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia are:

  • The bathymetry of the LME areas;

  • The % of the world's coral reef area within the LME;

  • The % of the world's gazetted seamounts within the LME;

  • Productivity in gC/M2/yr as SeaWifs derived median values;

  • Hot link to lists of fish found in the LME as recorded in FishBase;

  • Hot link to Lindeman pyramid (trophic levels) of species in LMEs;

  • Access to graphs showing multidecadal trends in catch composition (currently 12 groups: anchovies, herring-like, perch-like, tuna & billfishes, cod-like, salmon/smelt, flatfishes, Scorpionfishes, sharks & rays, crustaceans, molluscs, and ‘others’) for LMEs from 1950 to 1999;

  • Images of selected oceanographic features within LMEs including SST and temperature profiles.

  • The 64 LMEs, along with selected summary data, are depicted at the website

Since 1984, studies of LMEs have been the subject of workshops, symposia, conferences, published reports, and 9 published volumes. For the past several years, a global campaign has been underway by the IUCN – the World Conservation Union, several United Nations agencies, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to improve global prospects for the long-term sustainability of resources and environments of international coastal waters. Scientific and technical assistance is provided to developing countries committed to advancing new policies and actions for eliminating root causes of transboundary environmental and resource-use practices leading to serious degredation of coastal environments and losses in biodiversity and food security from overexploitation of fish populations in LMEs located around the margins of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. At present, 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and eastern Europe are engaged in the planning and implementation of $150 million in GEF and donor-supported LME projects. (Table 1)

The present collaborative strategy for the assessment and management of the LMEs adjacent to developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and eastern Europe is outlined in the extended abstract of a joint NOAA-GEF presentation made to the Dec 10 Rio + 10 Conference held in Paris.
Background Report: The following is an extended abstract of a report that was presented to the Rio + 10 Conference, held at IOC, UNESCO, Paris, 3 to 7 December 2001. A New Imperative for Improving Management of Large Marine Ecosystems by A. Duda1 and K. Sherman2.
Continued over-fishing, destruction of habitats, and accelerated pollution loading have dramatically reduced biomass and diversity of the coastal oceans to the point that several ecosystems are collapsing, national economic benefits from the marine systems are falling, and communities depending on the resources for livelihoods and protein are being stressed. When mismanagement of freshwater resources is added to these concerns, along with new threats from fluctuating climatic regimes, it becomes clear that the global life support system is at risk placing the socio-economic future of coastal regions in jeopardy.

A New Imperative

These trends were identified in Stockholm 30 years ago, and their significance was reaffirmed with actions adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992 under Agenda 21. Commitments to an alternative pathway have been made by the world community in global instruments such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, progress in the last decade since Rio has been disappointing. Activities under Chapter 17 and Chapter 18 of Agenda 21 were conducted in isolation rather than linked to restore and protect coastal ecosystems. Initiatives under the different legal instruments were thematic, fragmented, or disconnected with sound science and consequently were unable to influence political decisions. Competing programs developed over time, and those driven by the donor community were just not comprehensive or participative enough to capture the commitment of developing nations.

At the end of the last century, a new common understanding emerged about the deepening degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems—that the decline is not just a problem of developing nations but is also driven by over-consumption from developed nations. Indeed, rich countries now acknowledge the need to adopt many reforms as well, not only for their degraded marine waters but also to provide a safety net to conserve marine waters of developing nations that are exploited for global commerce.
As a new century dawns, a new imperative exists for a radical shift in thinking about how marine ecosystems are to be managed. North-South collaboration must result in changes in the economic sectors that create the stress on our valuable marine ecosystems. If the spiraling degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems is to be reversed so that these ecosystems continue to provide both livelihood benefits to coastal communities and foreign exchange to governments, a more ecosystem-based approach needs to be implemented. The fragmentation and competition characteristic of activities under Chapter 17 must be overcome and stakeholders must be harnessed as a force for reform in the economic sectors creating the stress on marine ecosystems.

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