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Shark Stewards on Sharks at the United Nations

IUU Fishing
United Nations General Assembly Hall

June 5-9 I had the heady experience of participating at the United Nations Oceans Conference at UN Headquarters and participate in discussions on shark conservation, MPAs and IUU fishing including dynamite fishing. Politicians, elected officials and NGOS like Shark Stewards gathered to discuss and help resolve the multiple threats facing the oceans. The conference convened to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Stop shark finning at United Nations

Groups who work on the water like Shark Stewards joined luminaries Sir Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio, Presidents (ours absent), Princes and Princesses advocating for ocean health and a sustainable future. With our partners in Malaysia and Timor Leste, we were able to help push the voluntary commitments to reduce IUU fishing and increase marine protection in the Coral Triangle.  In South East Asia (SEA) the Stop Fish Bombing consortium is developing technological and human solutions to stop this destructive practice. Lead by local partners ScubaZoo and Hong Kong StopFish Bombing, May preparatory meetings with the government of Malaysia, developed the following commitment:

A Holistic Solution for the Eradication of Destructive Fishing Practices in South-East Asia

Destructive fishing, is aptly named due to the use of fishing methods that also destroy marine habitat, examples include fish bombing, cyanide fishing and bottom trawling. The destruction of these habitats not only means less breeding grounds for fish, but also the biodiversity of areas frequently used to attract tourists is lost. For many developing nations in SEA this presents an insurmountable challenge in terms of maintaining a delicate balance between the interests of the indigenous fisherman and sustainable livelihoods for the entire community.

Peter Thomson

Peter Thomson, President United Nations General Assembly, and Closing Panel

Additionally, the following commitment to develop sustainable management among six countries in the Coral Triangle:

The Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF)

In 2009, the six Coral Triangle governments (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste) and a group of Development Partners formed the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), a multi-lateral initiative that integrates and addresses critical issues such as food security, livelihoods, climate change, and marine biodiversity through a people centered approach to conservation.

Timor Leste, a small nation south of Borneo and rich in natural resources is high at risk to IUU fishing and blast fishing. Recently independent, and rich in biodiversity, the nation committed to no less than 7 major goals towards sustainability and embraced the our support to stop fish bombing and IUU fishing.  Look more for media and conservation milestones at Timo Leste this year.


Among the commitments filed at the United Nations are:

Aquatic resources in Timor-Leste are a priceless economic resource, and ecological national heritage that ought to be protected for the benefit of present and future generations. Timor-Leste waters are one of the few remaining resources which have not been exploited by commercial fishers. However, the current regulations and laws surrounding licensing of international and domestic fisheries are outdated and as such are placing the fish stocks at risk. – See more .

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
  • Compliance, monitoring and enforcement
  • Reduction and elimination fishing practices and gear that destroy/degrade marine habitat
  • Science-based fisheries management plans
  • Ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF)
  • Reduction of fisheries by-catch and product waste/losses
Specific SDG 14 Categories Committed:
By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. See more
Explorers Club
At Explorer’s Club with the Wesjin Girls

One of the highlights, besides speaking on IUU fishing of sharks, was meeting Prince Albert of Monaco and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at a launch of a 3 year scientific ocean exploration on a newly launched vessel. With Cristal I caught up with Monaco Explorations scientific committee member, National Geographic Ocean Explorer and interviewee in our first documentary Sharks, Stewards of the Reef, Enric Sala.

What was perhaps the most inspirational was meeting UNESCO youth awardees Melate and Isabel Wisjen of Bali, who at age 8 and 10 started a plastic bag ban on the island.”Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too young or you won’t understand,” Isabel says to other aspiring activists.

“You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks.” – Sylvia Earle

Back in San Francisco, I loved my dog up, put the VW in storage and stuffed dive, camera and jungle gear and am back in Malaysia to help make good on the commitments made at the UN.

Follow the Borneo Adventure on sharkstewards.org.