There was good news this month when the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the creation of an Arctic Sanctuary covering the vast high Arctic around the North Pole, giving official status to an idea that has been pushed for by Green activists and campaigners for several years.
The proposed sanctuary, lying outside of Exclusive Economic Zones, would cover “one of the largest and least exploited areas on Earth: a 2.8 million square kilometer zone of the global commons,” writes Neil Hamilton, the Senior Political Advisor Polar with Greenpeace Norway. “That would be the biggest conservation zone in existence, protecting fish stocks, ice-dependent species, and a huge variety of cold water species.”
Greenpeace has been campaigning for a global Arctic Sanctuary for several years, including gathering some 5 million signatures from around the world, because there has been rising interest from governments and industries to exploit the once inaccessible wilderness for fish and fossil fuels.
The resolution notes that “climate changes in the Arctic will have a major impact on coastal regions globally, including coastal regions in the European Union, and on climate-dependent sectors in Europe such as agriculture and fisheries, energy, reindeer herding, hunting, tourism and transport.”
In addition to supporting an Arctic Sanctuary, the European Parliament’s resolution would ban fisheries in the high Arctic seas “until the establishment of appropriate regulatory mechanisms and protection.” It also calls for “strict precautionary regulatory standards” when it comes to fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the region.
Last December, Gazprom become the first energy company to begin pumping oil out of the Arctic seabed. In response to this the European Parliament expressed “strong concern regarding the rush for oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic without adequate standards being enforced”.
Pic: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace
Japanese whaling in the Antarctic Ocean was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice this afternoon. This is a landmark ruling which will stop hundreds of whales being killed each year in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica in the name of “research”.
Australia had asked the Court to stop Japan’s annual whaling hunting expedition, claiming their programme is not scientific but commercial, because of its large scale. Japan catches about 1,000 whales each year for what it calls scientific research.
In a statement, the court said: “The special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ pursuant to [the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling].”
The court’s decision is considered legally binding and Japan has said in the past that it would abide by the court’s ruling. But this isn’t the end of the story. While this may stop Japan’s whaling efforts in the Southern Ocean, campaigners fear that Japan could still try and find new excuses to continue this cull under another guise.
Greenpeace is urging governments to support a huge network of marine reserves that will act as sanctuaries for the diverse, beautiful, weird and wonderful species all over the world, including places like the Antarctic, which is under threat from commercial fishing and climate change.
They are calling on politicians to create a vast network of marine reserves to protect the Antarctic and species like emperor penguins, minke whales and colossal squid.
Posted in Nature, Whales, Wildlife
Tagged Antarctic, Antarctic Ocean, conservation, Environment, Greenpeace, International Court of Justice, Japan, Japanese whaling, minke whales, Southern Ocean
Be a Seed for Change
Last week, along with five other women, I scaled Europe’s tallest skyscraper to show our leaders and Shell that we don’t want Arctic drilling.
Now we need you to take the reins and make sure the whole world knows why we need to protect the Arctic.
This feat took us 15 hours of climbing. Despite our exhaustion, the outpouring of support from tens of thousands of people all over the world kept our spirits high. When we reached the top, we waved a flag for the Arctic in direct view of Shell’s three London headquarters.
There were only six of us up there, but there are millions of us in every corner of the world who want the Arctic protected. The most effective action we can do now is to make everyone else care for the Arctic as we do, and to do that we need to make it big…
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A group of six female protesters from Greenpeace were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass after scaling London’s 72-storey Shard tower on Thursday.
The group of female activists climbed all day and reached the top of the Shard in central London at around 7pm on Thursday night after 15 hours of climbing in protest at oil drilling in the Arctic. After reaching the summit of the 72-storey building, two of the campaigners unfurled a huge flag with “Save the Arctic” written in white across it.
Greenpeace said: “This building – modelled on a shard of ice – sits slap bang in the middle of Shell’s three London headquarters. They don’t want us talking about their plan to drill in the Arctic. We’re here to shout about it from the rooftops.”
Greenpeace posted pictures at 7:30am of a group of female protesters, and said the team had started climbing at 4am. It named the group as “Sabine, Sandra, Victo, Ali, Wiola and Liesbeth”, adding: “Wish them luck, they’re awesome”. You can watch the climb here.
Great news! After months of campaigning by environmentalists, the European Commission has taken action to protect bees by restricting the use of harmful chemicals in pesticides.
Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban and, even though the vote was split, the Commission imposed a two-year restriction on three neonicotinoids, which research has shown to harm bees – and the UK cannot opt out.
The ban means neonicotinoids will not be used on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators, there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.
The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year. After today’s vote, EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
The UK was among eight countries that voted against the ban, arguing that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. Four nations also abstained. But Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said the vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. Those countries opposing a ban have failed.”
A report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded the pesticides posed “a high risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.
There was intensive lobbying in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday and campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said “leading retailers have already taken action by removing these pesticides from their shelves and supply chains – the UK government must act too”.
Campaigners marched on Parliament yesterday, urging the British Government to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that are responsible for declining bee numbers.
The ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament Square came ahead of a crucial vote in Brussels next week, and included a number of celebrities, as well as many beekeepers, conservationists, gardeners and environmental activists. Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and artist Rachel Whiteread were among those protesting at Westminster.
Yellow and black dominated the scene as many in attendance dressed as bees and carried signs with slogans such as “Like Food? Love Bees” and “No to Neonic,” referring to pesticide class called neonicotinoids that a number of recent studies have tied directly to the decline of bee populations.
Member states are due to decide whether or not to introduce a two-year moratorium on their use on Monday. Unlike France, Spain and Italy, Britain is widely expected to abstain or vote no against the neonicotinoid ban, saying the impact of the pesticides on bees is unclear and the restrictions could harm crop production.
The organisers of the so-called “March of the Beekeepers” included Avaaz, Friends of the Earth, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, Soil Association and the group 38 Degrees.
“Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline,” said Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Andrew Pendleton. “Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.”
So far 2.6 million people have signed the Avaaz petition, which calls for the immediate ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Posted in Bees, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged Avaaz, conservation, countryside, Defra, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Parliament, pesticides, petitions
Pic by Greenpeace
An unexpected thing happened on Wednesday. Shell cancelled its plans to drill this summer in the Alaskan Arctic this year after a series of costly accidents.
“Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people,” said Marvin E. Odum of Shell.
President Obama ordered a federal inquiry into Shell’s Arctic drilling programme after the oil company suffered numerous setbacks last year in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, including running its drilling rig aground on Sitkalidak Island, and the US Coast Guard has listed 16 safety violations on the rig.
“This is the first thing Shell’s done right in Alaska — calling it quits,” said Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. “Now the responsible decision is to make Arctic drilling off limits, forever.”
Celebrity chef and food writer Fearnley-Whittingstall will be leading a march on Parliament at noon on Monday, 25 February, to persuade ministers to put in place a wider network of marine conservation zones, where fishing would be effectively banned.
The seas around the UK cover 700,000km and yet only 8km are fully protected from all forms of fishing. Less than 10km are protected from the destruction that is caused to the seabed by the heavy iron teeth that are used to dredge for scallops and the metal chains of beam trawls.
The march is calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas and will set off from the London Aquarium at 12 noon and will be filmed for his new Channel 4 TV series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. Organisations taking part will include Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, Sealife and the British Sub-Aqua Club.
The chef, who started his Fish Fight campaign two years ago, will highlight the destruction of our seabeds in his new series, starting tonight at 9pm. The first episode will show how the huge metal ploughs used on scallop dredges tear up all life, rocks and seaweeds on the seabed. Booths supermarket has already pledged to stop selling dredged scallops and will stock only scallops that have been dived for, which does not damage the surrounding area.
Fearnley-Whittingstall is hoping to replicate the success of his campaign against the discarding of healthy fish at sea under the EU’s fishing quotas. Discarding results in about half of the fish in the North Sea alone being thrown back dead, even though they are edible and healthy, because they are caught by vessels that have exceeded their quota. He has got the support of celebrities like Stephen Fry, Coldplay and Ricky Gervais, as well as several supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer.
The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing away fish at sea in a victory for green groups after more than two years of campaigning.
There are hopes that these changes to the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy can become law by next year. MEPs voted for the reform package by 502 votes to 137 after being bombarded with complaints, following a series of high-profile campaigns from environmentalists, fishermen and celebrity chefs.
Campaigners are angry that EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. The reforms package include:
- Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
- Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
- Banning discards
- Priority access to those who fish in environmentally beneficial ways
- Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters.
“This is really excellent news,” said the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spearheaded a Fish Fight campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to oppose discards. “It was a nerve-racking morning. We’re really grateful to the thousands of Fish Fighters across Europe who emailed MEPs over the last few days, and helped to head off a last-ditch attempt by some politicians to fatally weaken the discards ban.”
Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs’ vote, saying the reforms were a “momentous shift away from overfishing” and would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods, which usually cause less environmental harm.
A Greenpeace spokesperson said: “National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”
Waitrose has suspended plans to expand its partnership with the Arctic oil drillers Shell, after 12 days of intense campaigning by Greenpeace.
The UK supermarket had been considering opening new shops in Shell petrol stations across the country, but Waitrose managing director Mark Price has confirmed that these plans have been put on ice until after 2013. The supermarket has also declared its support for the creation of an Arctic sanctuary, a move that would help protect endangered species, such as the polar bear, Arctic fox and narwal, by making the polar region off limits to oil drillers like Shell.
The announcement was made after nearly 40,000 people signed a Greenpeace petition urging Waitrose to break off the partnership with Shell. Activists also sent emails, posted hundreds of messages on Facebook, and staged demonstrations in Waitrose stores, including the appearance of a life-size polar bear in Islington.
Greenpeace, which has worked with Waitrose to develop its sustainable fishing policies, said it was “shocked” that the retailer, which prides itself on its environmental initiatives, would link itself to Shell. This summer Shell tried, and failed, to drill for oil in the Arctic, after a catalogue of disasters which included breaking the oil spill response equipment during testing.
You can support Greenpeace’s campaign to save the Arctic by visiting http://www.savethearctic.org