High level event on forests and climate change supports emissions reduction mechanism
In an unprecedented display of cooperation between developed and developing countries on climate change, eighteen Heads of State gathered at UN headquarters in New York to publicly express their commitment and support for REDD—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing counties.
They asserted that the new climate change agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen must address in an effective and equitable way the role of forests as a mitigation option.
Following the previous day’s Summit on Climate Change, and in advance of the critical Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen taking place this December, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened leaders and dignitaries from developed and developing countries to dialogue and publicly support REDD. After remarks by Secretary-General Ban, Presidents and Prime Ministers from Africa (Republic of Congo); Asia and the Pacific (Papua New Guinea); Latin America and the Caribbean (Guyana); industrialized countries (Australia, Norway, Sweden), and World Bank President Zoellick took the stand to support progress and actions on REDD. Statements by other high ranking officials included Bangladesh, Belgium, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan and the People’s Republic of China also underlined their commitment.
The event marked the largest gathering of countries to date on the issue of REDD, with the participation of over 80 countries and over 150 dignitaries and leaders from international and non-governmental organizations, academia, think tanks and the private sector from around the world concerned with climate change and forests.
“This convergence of world leaders highlights a positive, growing momentum in support of REDD and signals how this mechanism may be feasible from a technical, financial and collaboration perspective,” Secretary-General Ban said about the event. “While drastic reductions in fossil fuel-related emissions are crucial in addressing climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forests and land use is pivotal to the overall equation.”
Participating developing countries expressed their willingness to undertake significant cuts in deforestation and forest degradation, provided that they receive sufficient financial support. Secretary-General Ban highlighted global emissions can be substantially reduced by preventing deforestation.
A report by the Informal Working Group on Interim Finance for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (IWG-IFR) estimates a 25 percent reduction in deforestation could be achieved with a financial commitment of 15-20 billion Euros ($22-29 billion) by 2015.
Deforestation and the degradation of forests are responsible for just under one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined. In addition to storing over one trillion tons of the world’s carbon, forests provide for essential human needs, including adaptation. Yet under the current Kyoto Protocol, developing countries cannot receive credit for the social and environmental benefits their forests provide. The absence of rewards for maintaining forests means they continue to be cut, burnt and degraded. A REDD mechanism, that will be discussed during the climate change negotiations this December in Copenhagen, proposes to change the perverse incentives that make forests worth more dead than alive.
The UN-REDD Programme, a collaborative partnership between FAO, UNDP and UNEP, supports countries to develop capacity to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to implement a future REDD mechanism.
A killer disease is decimating fish stocks in the Zambezi River Valley, threatening the food security and livelihoods of rural populations in an area shared by seven countries, FAO warned today.
An alert issued by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) said the disease, known as Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome, or EUS, is caused by the fungus Aphanomyces invadans, which forms ugly lesions on fish and has a high rate of mortality. It is one of the most serious aquatic diseases affecting finfish.
“If not properly contained there is the risk of the disease spreading to other countries surrounding the Zambezi River as well as river systems in the region,” said Rohana Subasinghe, Senior Fishery Resources Officer. The 1,390,000 km² Zambezi River Basin is home to some 32 million people, of whom 80 percent are dependent on agriculture or fishing and fish farming.
Up and downstream
Indications are that EUS, which was first confirmed in Africa in 2007, is spreading both upstream and downstream of the Zambezi and risks taking hold in other parts of Africa. The GIEWS alert serves notice on the international donor community that a food security crisis is developing and that assistance and funding will likely be required.
The most affected country is Zambia, where two thirds of the Zambezi River Basin lies. Over 2000 villages and some 700,000 people are at risk of food insecurity because fish is not only a source of revenue in many rural districts but is also the cheapest available source of protein.
Fish infected with EUS do not normally pose health hazards to humans, although the deep ulcerations and tissue decay characteristic of the disease could harbour secondary, more threatening pathogens. It is therefore recommended not to eat EUS-contaminated fish unless it is thoroughly cooked.
EUS-affected fish is un-marketable, causing severe economic loss to fishers and fish farmers. Some 50 species of finfish are susceptible to the disease, with outbreaks often affecting younger fish in particular so that irreversible damage to fish populations and severe loss of biodiversity often occurs.
EUS first appeared in Japan in the early 1970s then spread to Australia and much of Asia, while the United States was hit in 1984. It is now present in at least 24 countries in the world.
FAO has since 2007 been helping build capacities for coping with the disease in the seven Zambezi River Basin countries – Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This includes basic EUS diagnosis, targeted EUS surveillance and basic aquatic animal health management.
In response to urgent requests from a number of countries FAO, in close cooperation with the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), is helping develop and implement an aquatic biosecurity framework for Southern Africa and build capacity for the management of Zambezi River resources.
The programme will strengthen institutional and human capacity for managing aquatic animal health in the wild in the affected countries through appropriate policies and regulations.
Control of EUS in natural waters such as rivers is impossible but is relatively simpler in fish farming operations where a number of simple biosecurity measures can minimize or prevent its spread. They include preventing possible carriers or vectors getting into water bodies or fish ponds, removing dead fish and improving water quality.
Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear is impacting fish stocks and poses a hazard to boats
Large amounts of fishing gear lost at sea or abandoned by fishers are hurting the marine environment, impacting fish stocks through "ghost fishing" and posing a hazard to ships, according to a new report jointly produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
According to the study, the problem of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is getting worse due to the increased scale of global fishing operations and the introduction of highly durable fishing gear made of long-lasting synthetic materials.
The report estimates that abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear in the oceans makes up around 10 percent (640 000 tonnes) of all marine litter. Merchant shipping is the primary source on the open sea, land-based sources are the predominate cause of marine debris in coastal areas.
Most fishing gear is not deliberately discarded but is lost in storms or strong currents or results from "gear conflicts," for example, fishing with nets in areas where bottom-traps that can entangle them are already deployed.
The main impacts of abandoned or lost fishing gear are:
• continued catches of fish -- known as "ghost fishing" -- and other animals such as turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, who are trapped and die;
• alterations of the sea-floor environment; and
• the creation of navigation hazards that can cause accidents at sea and damage boats.
Gill nets, fishing pots and traps are most likely to "ghost fish," while longlines, are more likely to ensnare other marine organisms and trawls most likely to damage sub-sea habitats.
In the past, poorly operated drift nets were the prime culprits, but a 1992 ban on their use in many areas has reduced their contribution to ghost fishing.
Today, bottom set gill nets are more often-cited as a problem. The bottom edge of these nets is anchored to the sea floor and floats are attached to their top, so that they form a vertical undersea wall of netting that can run anywhere from 600 to 10 000 meters in length. If a gillnet is abandoned or lost, it can continue to fish on its own for months - and sometimes years - indiscriminately killing fish and other animals.
Traps and pots are another major ghost fisher. In the Chesapeake Bay of the United States, an estimated 150 000 crab traps are lost each year out of an estimated 500 000 total deployed. On just the single Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, about 20 000 of all traps set each year are lost each hurricane season - a loss rate of 50 percent. Like gill nets, these traps can continue to fish on their own for long periods of time.
"The amount of fishing gear remaining in the marine environment will continue to accumulate and the impacts on marine ecosystems will continue to get worse if the international community doesn't take effective steps to deal with the problem of marine debris as a whole. Strategies for addressing the problem must occur on multiple fronts, including prevention, mitigation, and curative measures," said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture. He also noted that FAO is working closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in its ongoing review of Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) as regards fishing gear and shore side reception facilities.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said:" There are many ‘ghosts in the marine environment machine' from overfishing and acidification linked with greenhouse gases to the rise in de-oxygenated ‘dead zones' as a result of run off and land-based source of pollution. Abandoned and lost fishing is part of this suite of challenges that must be urgently addressed collectively if the productivity of our oceans and seas is to be maintained for this and future generations, not least for achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals".
The FAO/UNEP report makes a number of recommendations for tackling the problem of ghost nets:
Financial incentives. Economic incentives could encourage fishers to report lost gear or bring to port old and damaged gear, as well as any ghost nets they might recover accidentally while fishing.
Marking gear. Not all trash gear is deliberately dumped, so marking should not be used to "identify offenders" but rather better understand the reasons for gear loss and identify appropriate, fishery-specific preventative measures.
New technologies. New technologies offer new possibilities for reducing the probability of ghost fishing. Sea-bed imaging can be used to avoid undersea snags and obstacles. Fishing equipment can be expensive, and many fishers often go to great lengths to retrieve lost gear. Technology that makes doing so easier can help. Using GPS, vessels can mark locations where gear has been lost, facilitating retrieval, and transponders can be fitted to gear in order to do the same. Similarly, improvements in weather monitoring technology can be used to help skippers avoid deploying nets when very bad weather is imminent.
Just as new synthetic and other materials used in fishing gears have contributed to the ADLFG problem, they can also help solve it. Work is underway to speed up the commercial adoption of durable gear components that incorporate bio-degradable elements. For example, in some countries fish traps and pots are constructed with a biodegradable "escape hatch" that disintegrates when left under water too long, rendering the trap harmless. As this would not necessarily reduce the levels of debris, a reporting and retrieval system should also be adopted.
Improving collection, disposal and recycling schemes. It is necessary to facilitate proper disposal of all old, damaged and retrieved fishing gears, according to the report. Most ports do not have facilities on site that allow for this. Putting disposal bins on docks and providing boats with oversized, high-strength disposal bags for old fishing gear or parts thereof can help remedy this.
Better reporting of lost gear. A key recommendation of the report is that vessels should be required to log gear losses as a matter of course. However a "no-blame" approach should be followed with respect to liability for losses, their impacts, and any recovery efforts, it says. The goal should be to improve awareness of potential hazards and increase the opportunity for gear recovery.
The report discusses a number of other measures that could help, as well.
"Clearly solutions to this problem do exist, and our hope is that this report will prompt industry and governments to take action to significantly reduce the amount of lost or abandoned fishing gear in the marine environment," said Nomura.
The new report comes as nations are set to gather in for the World Oceans Conference in Manado, Indonesia (11-15 May 2009), where the issue of realizing healthy marine environments will figure high on the agenda.
Any influenza-like signs in pigs should be reported
After the detection of the A/H1N1 virus in pigs in Canada transmitted by a human, FAO has again urged national authorities and farmers to carefully monitor pigs and investigate any possible occurrences of influenza-like symptoms in domestic animals.
"The human-to-animal transmission that occurred in Canada does not come as a surprise as influenza viruses are capable of transmitting from humans to animals," FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said.
"The Canadian event should therefore not be a matter of panic, but it should remind us of the human-animal link in virus transmission on which we definitely need to keep an eye."
Influenza viruses, whether in humans or among animals, are constantly evolving genetically, along with changes in their ability to cause morbidity and mortality in humans or animals. Therefore the current A/H1N1 situation should be carefully monitored as many of the virus characteristics and developments are still unknown, Domenech said.
Surveillance for porcine respiratory disease should be intensified and all cases of porcine respiratory syndrome are recommended to be immediately reported to veterinary authorities. It is also recommended to inform OIE and FAO about any occurrence of outbreaks of the new A/H1N1 Influenza virus in pigs.
Strict biosecurity measures including restriction of movements of pigs, goods and people should be applied on all farms or holdings with swine showing signs of clinical respiratory illness until diagnosis of the illness has been made.
Where A/H1N1 influenza is confirmed, movement restrictions should be in force for seven days after the last animal has recovered. Governments are requested to provide full support in improving biosecurity measures particularly to small and medium pig farmers.
Persons who work directly with swine should be urged not to go to work if they have any signs of respiratory disease, fever or any influenza-like illness. Animal handlers and veterinarians should wear protective clothing to minimize the risk of being infected.
FAO stressed that there is absolutely no need to slaughter animals in view of preventing circulation of the A/H1N1 virus.
The agency emphasized that the A/H1N1 virus cannot be transmitted to humans by pork and pork products. Pork and pork products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection.
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