Mauritius Position on Overfishing

Walker Heard

For thousands of years humanity has been dependent on the ocean, it has provided everything from transportation and trade routes, to oxygen and freshwater production, to an abundant source of food. However today our unsustainable practices have begun to put the ocean, especially it’s vital fish population, in extreme jeopardy, at a time when we are no less dependent on the ocean than a thousand years ago.  Major issues threating the ocean today include overfishing, ocean warming, ocean acidification, nitrification, and pollution. Due to the fact that Mauritius is an archipelago nation, it is heavily reliant on the ocean for survival. From the 11,900 workers in the fishing industry, to the even more numerous amounts of workers in the tourism sector, to the millions dependent on the boosts these industries contribute to the economy, these factors make Mauritius extremely sensitive to how the ocean is affected by these issues. One pressing issue to Mauritius is the coral bleaching crisis that is facing the world’s coral reefs, but has especially affected the famous Mauritian reefs, one of the countries major tourist attractions. However, one of the more pressing, and more solvable issues facing Mauritius is the overfishing crisis that exists in its waters.

The overfishing crisis comes from two fronts: 1. from the local fishermen/women, and 2. from foreign fishers. On the local side, a massive boom in population growth and development has led to there being more fishers in the water than can be sustained. These local fishers, which are in most cases, small-time pusedo-sustenance “artisanal” operations with a low catch yield, favor traditional fishing methods, which can involve harmful practices such as smashing the coral to get to their prey. These methods, which in days past were sustainable enough are now being implemented at a much larger scale, due to the sheer numbers, and at a time when the reefs are at the brink of total bleach death. The sheer numbers of the fishermen are also depleting fish populations at a faster rate than can be replaced, which results in fewer, smaller fish. On the other side of the equation is the foreign fishers, who use long sturdy trawl nets, which indiscriminately scrape up all life in its path, and further aid in the depletion of fish populations. Making the situation worse is the common practice of foreign vessels, which largely come from Asia and Europe, skirting licensing laws or evading taxes. These laws are in place for a country to be able to extract a tax from the haul of fishing vessels fishing in its waters, however, many vessels take advantage of the inability of the African countries to properly enforce these laws and either illegally fish in a country’s EEZ or lie on how much they caught to evade high taxes. Foreign vessels have also been caught using illegal fishing techniques such as drift net fishing, a fishing method banned by the UN for the destruction it wreaks on an area’s ecosystem. In order to combat both these overfishing causes I propose to 1: impose large-scale fish closures, which have worked in Mauritius before, to replenish fish populations and sizes. 2: train the local fishermen to use GPS cameras to identify illegal fishing vessels and maybe install a bounty system as a way of incentive for identifying an illegal vessel. 3: pass legislation to reduce the number of trawlers allowed in a country’s EEZ and, 4: appropriate funds from the World Bank to create a force to enforce these measures, and/or recruit conservation groups like Sea Shepard to help enforce these measures.

Ocean Pollution in India

It is estimated that as much as 14 billion pounds of trash- mostly non-biodegradable plastics- are discarded into the ocean each year. This water pollution can come from a variety of sources, and is categorized into Point Source and Nonpoint Source pollution. Point source pollution is caused by larger singular events like oil or chemical spills. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by runoff from larger sources (Ex. farms, livestock ranches, and logging/tree harvesting) as well as several smaller sources (Ex. septic tanks, cars, trucks, and boats).

According to WHO global air pollution database, out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in India. A 2017 study by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General showed that more than 163 million Indians do not have access to safe drinking water, and nearly 46 million people currently live in areas with “water-quality-affected habitations”. The country’s per capita use of plastics is fairly low, at 24 pounds or 11 kilograms a year, in comparison to the United States’ 240 pounds or 109 kilograms, but India also has a population of nearly 1.4 billion. Only 60% of the plastic waste is collected. This means that there are more than 550,000 tons of plastic waste that are dumped into the ocean annually. The rest ends up in the water supplies and soil, including agricultural land and drinking water.

India has been making an effort to reduce the country’s waste. The National Rural Drinking Water Program is a program run by India’s Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation that began in 2012 with the goal of “providing every person in rural India with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis”. Despite spending 90 percent of it’s 890.95 billion rupee budget over five years, the program failed to achieve its goals. An audit done in 2017 found that instead of the 100% coverage that was promised, access to safe drinking water was only found in 44% of rural habitations and 85% of government schools. “Similarly, instead of the 50% target, only 18% of rural population was provided potable drinking water through pipes and only 17 per cent of rural households were given household connections.” India also conducted informative workshops in schools that “linked single-use plastic to pollution, poor health, overflowing drains, and breeding mosquitoes”. The southern state Tamil Nadu has banned 14 types of plastic, and governments in more than half of India’s territories has legislation taking aim at single-use plastic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also announced India’s intention to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

Much could be done in order to minimize India’s pollution problems. Increased recycling and plastic collection programs, especially surrounding rivers like the Ghengis, and national consistent enforcement of regulations surrounding sale and disposal of plastics could all greatly impact the country’s current sanitation. Preemptively, funding alternatives for single use and disposable plastics as well as a countrywide tax on single use plastics could prevent further pollution.

Eritrea Position on Ocean Warming and Acidification

The country of Eritrea believes that the trend of increasing ocean acidity and temperature poses a threat to the economy and food security of our country. The emission of greenhouse gasses has caused an increase in atmospheric temperature and an increase in global ocean temperature with it. The most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released into the atmosphere the burning of fossil fuels for energy production. The CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, where it reacts with seawater, forming carbonic acid, and lowering the pH of the ocean water. Although the effects of increased acidity and temperature on ocean chemistry are not fully known, these trends are known to be threats to the health of coral reefs. Warming water temperatures cause corals to lose microorganisms which provide the coral with food, protection, and their signature coloration. The increase in ocean acidity leads to a decrease in the dissolved salts corals use to grow, leading to a subsequent reduction in coral growth. In severe cases of increased acidification, corals can begin to dissolve.

The health of Eritrea’s coral reefs are of immediate concern to the country. The waters in the southern red sea within Eritrea’s EEZ are particularly productive and are home to over 1000 species of fish and 220 species of coral. Reef fish makeup 64% of Eritrea’s total fishery catch. In ca 2012 report from the NGO Oceana, Eritrea was ranked number 9 in countries whose food security is most vulnerable to ocean acidification.

Food security is an ongoing priority of the Eritrean government. Although meat is the more popular protein source in Eritrea and fish consumption in Eritrea is low (1 kg/capita/year) many local fishing communities rely on fish. Eritrea lacks the economic power and infrastructure to import food from other countries, and considers any global threat to our local food supply to be of the utmost importance. We will work with larger industrialized nations to come to an agreement to control CO2 emissions and promote green energy projects in developing nations.

Committee on Overfishing: Senegal

Since its independence from France in 1960, Senegal has been one of the most economically stable countries in Africa. This stability has been threatened in recent years, however, as one of the country’s largest industries, fishing, has been compromised. As fish populations around the world have become severely depleted, the fishing fleets of some developed countries have started seeking out fishing grounds in developing countries. Overfishing by foreign trawlers in the waters surrounding West Africa has led to a massive fish shortage in Senegal. The shortage has destroyed the livelihoods of Senegalese fishermen and caused a malnutrition crisis throughout the country. Historically, fish caught by fishermen living in St. Louis, the largest fishing port in Senegal, has provided up to 75% of the protein consumed by the millions of people living in Senegal. In the last two years, the amount of fish caught by fishermen in St. Louis has decreased by 80%. Many of those impacted by the shortage in Senegal have been compelled to risk their lives migrating to Europe. Senegalese fishermen have started fishing illegally in the waters surrounding Mauritania. This has led to violent confrontations  between Senegalese fishermen and the Mauritanian coast guard.

The current fisheries partnership agreement between the EU and Senegal allows EU vessels from Spain and France to fish in Senegalese waters. In 2015, the government of Senegal successfully negotiated for stricter protocol and regulations. The government of Senegal has had a difficult time monitoring and regulating the fish caught by Senegalese fishermen. While the country has implemented laws that require licenses and inspections, these laws are rarely enforced. Chinese trawlers contribute more to overfishing in the water surrounding West Africa than any other foreign fishing vessels. Senegal has had difficulty reaching a fishing agreement with China. China is currently funding large infrastructure projects across all of Africa. These projects have given China a great deal of negotiating power in its dealings with African countries and has made it difficult for Senegal to negotiate a fair fishing agreement.

Senegal plans to argue for greater protections for the fishing grounds of developing countries at the upcoming meeting of the United Nations Committee on Overfishing. Senegal has two primary goals that it seeks to accomplish at the Committee. The first goal is the creation of “artisanal” fishing zones with limits on the size of fishing vessels. Preventing large foreign trawlers from fishing within 20 miles of the West African coast would prevent the over-exploitation of fish resources and ensure that local communities benefit from those resources. The second goal is the establishment of an internationally funded West African maritime commission that will monitor and coordinate responses to illegal fishing. The majority of West African countries do not currently possess the resources to monitor their fishing grounds adequately. The commission will give West African countries the ability to direct their limited resources elsewhere and will significantly reduce the prevalence of illegal fishing in the region.