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World Bank president announces global oceans alliance

by Jeni Bone on 27 Feb 2012
A global alliance will manage and protect the world’s oceans. .. ©
Outgoing World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced a global alliance last week dedicated to managing and protecting the world’s oceans, with as much as US$1.5 billion earmarked for the initiative distributed over five years.

Oceans provide about 15% of the world's animal protein and fish is the world’s single most-traded food product worth US$25 billion a year.

According to Zoellick, the sea has become overexploited, with booming populations in coastal cities and climactic changes adding to the oceans’ depletion.

In his announcement, Zoellick said government overhauls were needed to tackle the problem of overfishing, with about 85% of the world’s fisheries now being exploited at or beyond their capacity, according to World Bank research.
Zoellick made his announcement at the World Oceans Summit, a two-day conference sponsored by The Economist magazine in Singapore.

During the summit, a phalanx of experts argued the burden of depleted fishing stocks traditionally had fallen on poorer, coastal communities dominated by small-scale fishermen who are solely reliant on the trade for their livelihood. Approximately 90% of the world's fishermen are small-scale operators, as opposed to the large commercial fishing operations of wealthier nations, according to conservation organisation, Rare.

But experts say in more recent times, depleted fishing stocks have become a bigger problem for larger fishing operations and richer nations like Japan and Mediterranean countries.

The initiative marks the latest effort by Zoellick, whose five-year term as head of the World Bank is set to expire in June, to find new ways to boost the bank's profile.

A major lender to developing economies, the bank, which is owned by 187 nations, has also focused recently on ways to manage strains on resources and climate change, as well as launching partnerships aimed at environmental protection. Those programs include the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, aimed at doubling the tiger population by 2022, and a global partnership announced in 2010 to help countries factor in the cost of destroying nature into their national accounts.

Under the terms of the alliance, the World Bank-led project would pledge US$300 million in 'catalytic finance', followed by as much as US$1.2 billion more to be raised with the help of governments, the private sector and civil society groups. The money would be spent on technical assistance to help governments implement reforms and to help operate marine protected areas to prevent overfishing, among other steps.

Last September, the World Bank convened a roundtable on issues related to ocean resources, bringing together players from key countries, including Pacific island nations, and private investors.

The World Bank is also planning to hold a Global Partnership for Oceans meeting in Washington in April. In addition to promoting marine protected areas, it has also focused attention on 'rights-based' management of the world's oceans that aims to ensure fishing boats operate only in areas they have legal rights to fish in.

More at www.economistconferences.asia/event/world-oceans-summit
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