Food security should open the conversation about biodiversity for coral reef-dependent countries

As noted in IUCN Resolution 105 (WCC-2020-Res-105) the world has already lost 50% of its coral reefs and time is running out to prevent more from disappearing. This loss is largely due to climate change and more acidic waters, pollution, sedimentation, overfishing and destructive fishing practices. All nations must work hard to preserve the critical ecosystem services provided by coral reefs. Our very survival, especially those of us from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), is directly linked to the health of our reefs; writes Jean Wiener of Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM) (Haiti), an IUCN Member organisation.

Undersized fish caught on reef

Opinions expressed in posts featured on the Crossroads blog and in related comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect opinions of IUCN or a consensus of its Member organisations.

As global citizens, we understand the ecosystemic value of our coral reefs. This fraction of our ocean floor supports 25% of our ocean’s marine life, providing food security for most of the world and supporting the livelihoods for coastal populations. Coral reefs are fierce defenders of our coastlines, reducing wave energy by up to 97% during storm surges. Given their unique beauty, they contribute over USD 36 billion to our global economy through the tourism industry.

IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. We know the agenda of the IUCN World Conservation Congress is to drive global action on nature-based recovery, climate change, and biodiversity. The Union provides critical expertise and influence for policymakers who can accelerate our transition to a sustainable world. But the biodiversity debate often uses the language of developed states and those with full stomachs.

“Biodiversity” is not a priority for governments who are facing great uncertainty and humanitarian challenges that require immediate attention; the biodiversity debate often uses the language of developed states and those with full stomachs.

Please understand that Haiti, and other countries like mine, are poor with a degraded environment and frequent political unrest. “Biodiversity” is not a priority for governments who are facing great uncertainty and humanitarian challenges that require immediate attention. The language that is used to talk about biodiversity is very broad and often becomes meaningless in the face of the daily struggle for survival here in Haiti. Food, clothing, and shelter all come from ecosystem services and it is within this context that we need to anchor our communications.

Food security is a priority. It translates to peoples’ daily survival, and through this lens communities and governments can see that coral reefs are important even when everything else is falling apart. The food security debate uses the language of developing states.

We can’t starve people; and instead must support communities to make the leap from destructive practices to sustainable livelihoods.

Overfishing strips our waters and allows algae to overrun our reefs. This is one driver of decline that we control. But the only way to stop the fisher who has a family to feed from engaging in illegal practices is to provide them with viable alternatives and then enforce policies which can restore order and balance to our marine habitats. As we move to resolve the drivers of coral reef decline, especially overfishing and destructive fishing practices, we need to consider how to manage the transition. We can’t starve people; and instead must support communities to make the leap from destructive practices to sustainable livelihoods.

I am asking all IUCN Members to be mindful of “altitude”. Don’t get caught in the clouds. Ensure the lofty language of Resolution 105 has an on-the-ground path to positive impact. As a co-sponsor, I stand by the importance of this Resolution, but I also know that dedicated work must follow its acceptance. We cannot look past the plight of developing states as they struggle with poverty, political unrest and environmental disasters. Haiti is at the centre of these three forces. And yet, if we let our coral reef ecosystem collapse, our food security, which has already been drained by years of illegal and destructive fishing practices, will disintegrate; meaning increased starvation for families across the nation.



Catch from 11 hours of fishing by 4 fishers


Catch from 11 hours of fishing by 4 fishers

Photo: FoProBiM-Haiti



I am asking all IUCN Members to be mindful of “altitude”. Don’t get caught in the clouds. Ensure the lofty language of Resolution 105 has an on-the-ground path to positive impact.

While I speak from the perspective of a SIDS that is coral reef-dependent, I also speak to the broader perspective of humanity and our ability to live in harmony with nature, which is the only way our planet will survive. Those of us coming from SIDS are in the most vulnerable position given our small voice in global conversation.

SIDS are not primarily responsible for climate change yet our livelihoods are threatened by its consequences. SIDS alone cannot curb the global appetite for fish nor can they end the overfishing practices that plunder our coastal habitats. Meanwhile, developed states that fund interventions or influence policy do have the power and capacity to support the infrastructure needed to resolve these issues. Powerful states which influence smaller states, must be mindful of our perspectives warranted by our plight.

I am asking IUCN Members to ensure that Resolution 105, which aligns with the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) recommendations, extends beyond written words and inspires real action. Please take this seriously. As the Resolution states, we must work towards the inclusion of coral reef ecosystems in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework as well as in the monitoring framework, and prioritise coral reef integrity and function. The Resolution rightly contends that we need new and fluid financing mechanisms to support corrective measures, monitor the status of reefs, and implement resilience-based management.



Mounds of illegally harvested coral


Mounds of illegally harvested coral

Photo: FoProBiM-Haiti



The concepts expressed in the Resolution need to be achievable. Follow-through is imperative, it starts with education and extends into policy, implementation, and intervention. There are tools available to states that can monitor the status and functionality of their reefs, and support planning for urgent interventions. There is access to global resources that support innovative and scalable conservation measures.

Let’s learn from the past, from the failings of the Aichi Targets and understand how a monitoring framework should and could be implemented; even in countries struggling with issues that seem more pressing to peoples’ daily lives.

IUCN and the Congress have global influence. But in order for this influence to achieve impact, there must be on-the-ground action connected to reality. Let’s learn from the past, from the failings of the Aichi Targets and understand how a monitoring framework should and could be implemented; even in countries struggling with issues that seem more pressing to peoples’ daily lives.

I look forward to seeing the benefits of the new finance mechanisms being created by the Global Fund for Coral Reefs. And for governments and conservationists to use the updated Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network status report and high-resolution maps being provided by the Allen Coral Atlas. These resources, and others, applied by those of us who engage in policy and conservation, inspire hope for coral reefs.



Mangrove reforestation in 3Bays Marine Protected Area


Mangrove reforestation in 3Bays Marine Protected Area

Photo: FoProBiM-Haiti



Let Resolution 105 be the starting point. It is my hope and the hope for coral reefs that IUCN, ICRI, NGOs and governments across the world will commit to on-the-ground practices to finance and develop the intended solutions. If we protect livelihoods and food security, the coexistence of people and nature is possible.

Topic: 
Biodiversity
Climate change
Food security
Author: 

Born and raised in Haiti, Jean founded the country’s first coastal and marine environmental non-profit in 1992: the Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM), an IUCN Member since 2004. As FoProBiM’s Executive Director, he specialises in coastal and marine sciences, environmental monitoring and management, and community development.  He is also the FoProBiM focal point for the International Coral Reefs Initiative (ICRI), the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST), the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), NatureCaribe, and IUCN Specialist Groups.

Fuente

Bases de datos sobre conservación

Portal CES newsletter

Infórmate de las últimas noticias

Suscribirse a Portal CES newsletter feed