As part of the OceanCare team, we are happy to see some positive developments in marine conservation.
- Changing course to avoid collisions
There has been significant success in reducing the risk to cetaceans from ship collisions in three regions. In the Hellenic Trench off Greece, some shipowning companies, most notably the world’s largest shipping company MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), have adapted their routes consistent with scientific recommendations to avoid crossing sperm whale habitat as much as possible. The same was achieved in the waters south of Sri Lanka, an important area for blue whales. In both regions, the next goal is to have the respective governments apply to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for specific shipping regulations, which should be legally binding for all marine traffic.
France, Italy, Monaco and Spain submitted such an application to the IMO in December to reduce the collision risk for the endangered fin whales and sperm whales in the north-western Mediterranean. Unfortunately, however, this proposal contains only voluntary measures. Accordingly, we will focus our activities on having these measures tightened up.
- Whaling initiative harpooned
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for wealthy states to exert influence on other states to have them set certain agendas in international bodies. For example, over the past three decades, Japan made numerous West African and Caribbean states support efforts to legalise commercial whaling and stymie reform efforts to modernise the International Whaling Commission (IWC) into a whale conservation body. At the last IWC meeting in October 2022, we were able to expose the role of Antigua & Barbuda. The island state proposed to initiate negotiations to lift the international ban on commercial whaling. However, we uncovered that even the nation’s prime minister was apparently unaware of his delegation’s fatal initiatives at the meeting and the initiative finally was defeated.
Example of media coverage:
- Initiatives for quieter seas
The European Union is once again setting standards in marine conservation. For the first time, thresholds for noise emissions into the sea have been established. However, implementation is still a long way off, as this is the responsibility of the member states. The situation is particularly bad with regard to oil and gas exploration, which employs sound cannons (“airguns”) that have extremely negative impacts on marine species. In the slipstream of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the oil industry is not shying away from pressuring states to allow further oil and gas exploration. To this end, OceanCare is making numerous efforts to press for the cessation of oil exploration. Most recently, Portugal passed a law banning oil exploration in its waters.
- From “fisheries management” to conservation: hope for sharks
Sharks have been neglected in international species conservation in recent decades, even though they fulfil an immensely important function in the ocean ecosystem on which we all depend. At the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in November 2022, the hammerhead and requiem shark families were finally included in Appendix II of the Convention. As a result, trade in the meat and fins of these species now requires export and import permits from the competent authorities, which may only be issued if the trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species.
Shifting Values was able to contribute to this on behalf of IFAW by campaigning in several Central European countries to secure their support for the shark conservation proposals.
Example of media coverage: https://www.krone.at/2697123 (in German)
ANIMAL WELFARE AGENDA IN AUSTRIA
- Torture breeds
This issue is as agonising as it sounds. Since 2005, torture breeding has been banned in Austria – and then again it has not, because an open-ended “transitional provision” nullifies this ban, so that there has been hardly any progress in the 17 years since then. Torture breeding and trade in torture-bred animals is still commonplace.
A breath of fresh air has now been brought by the commitment of the Hohl family who, from their own painful experience with their French Bulldog “Vigo”, have dedicated themselves to the fight against torture breeding and in the past two years have been able to set in motion more than all the animal protection organisations in the years before. We are pleased to be able to support the Hohl family in their efforts.
- Animal protection legislation
In July 2022, an amendment to the animal protection law was passed, which must be described as a missed opportunity in the area of agricultural animal husbandry. Other areas, such as the torture breeding of pets and the private keeping of wild animals, were completely excluded, although the Parliament had passed a progressive resolution on this at the end of 2021. This is now to be made up for in the coming year.
Shifting Values will work intensively to ensure that the points of the Parliament’s resolution that have not yet been implemented are fully transposed into animal protection legislation. This includes in particular several important measures against torture breeding as well as a positive list of wild animal species permitted in private husbandry.