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  • Belize moratorium on offshore oil activity landmark step forward for marine conservation

    The Belize reef is home to three kinds of marine turtles, endangered green turtles, like this one, as well as critically endangered hawksbills and vulnerable loggerheads. © Tony RathBelmopan, Belize, 18 August 2017– The Belize government's decision today to introduce critical legislation to establish a permanent moratorium on offshore oil activity in and around the Belize Barrier Reef has been welcomed by WWF, Oceana and other members of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage as a landmark step forward for the World Heritage site and marine conservation globally.
    The move to stop damaging oil exploration in Belize's territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone, expected to be adopted in the country's next parliamentary session in November 2017, marks an important first step toward protecting coastal and marine ecosystems worldwide and safeguarding the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, a significant biodiversity hotspot.
    "At a time when nature is under increasing pressure and being lost at an unprecedented and accelerating rate, we are beginning to realise its irreplaceable contribution to our own economy and welfare. The Belize government's commitment to protect the Belize Barrier Reef sets an example for the kind of leadership we urgently need to protect our planet's oceans and some of its most productive, outstanding - and yet, extremely vulnerable - places," said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.
    The Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, is home to almost 1,400 species and serves as a critical source of livelihood for over half of Belize's population. In October 2016, a decision to allow seismic testing for oil barely one kilometre away from the site caused national and global outcry over concerns on the potential impact on the site and its unique ecosystems.
    "Last year's mobilization showed how we stand united in our determination to protect the reef - a source of life, tradition and pride for all of us in Belize. We are heartened by today's decision which demonstrates the government's commitment to protect our national treasure," said Nadia Bood, Mesoamerican Reef Scientist at WWF. "We now need to continue our efforts, as decision-makers, civil society and individuals, to ensure the reef and its remarkable biodiversity is safeguarded for marine life and communities for years to come."
    "The catalyst for change has, and will always be, the will of the people. On the issue of offshore oil exploration in one of the world's most unique marine environments, the unwavering engagement of Belizeans, the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage members and the global community has been the constant factor that has brought us to this point in our democracy, " said Oceana's Vice President in Belize, Janelle Chanona. "Once enacted, this legislation would signal Prime Minister Barrow's administration's recognition that the quality of our lives directly depends on the integrity of natural resources and that the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of Belizeans who depend on the reef are not disposable. This legislation will also make Belize a leader in protecting corals and safeguarding coastal and marine ecosystems—actions that will hopefully prompt similar actions around the world."
    A WWF assessment published in June this year showed the Belize Barrier Reef to be under threat from offshore oil drilling and damaging coastal construction. While the ban on offshore oil activity would be significant progress, urgent action to strengthen mangrove regulation and limit the sale of public land in the World Heritage site is also needed.
    Reef-related tourism and fisheries support around 190,000 people in Belize. The annual economic contribution of reef-related tourism, fisheries and scientific research is estimated to be around 15 per cent of Belize's gross domestic product (GDP).
    For 30 years WWF has been working to conserve Belize's unique biodiversity, tackling its greatest threats while improving the lives of vulnerable communities, as part of its integral scope in the Mesoamerican Reef System. 
    Like the Belize Barrier Reef, nearly half of natural World Heritage sites worldwide are threatened by industrial pressures, putting the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them at risk and threatening their long-term viability. WWF's campaign, Together Saving Our Shared Heritage, is working to strengthen the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and reinforce the OECD guidelines that protect these sites. To date, over 400,000 people have expressed their support for the protection of the Belize World Heritage site through the campaign.
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    Notes to Editors:
    WWF photos and videos for use along with copyright information are available for download here.
    Oceana photos and videos for use along with copyright information are available for download  here.
    The WWF report Protecting People through Nature on the importance of natural World Heritage sites to communities and wildlife and the threats they face is available here.
    The report Too Precious to Drill: The Marine Biodiversity of Belize outlining why Belize's marine environment needs to be protected from oil activities can be found here.
    For more information, please contact:
    Nadia Bood nbood@wwfca.org | 501-602-6015| Skype: nboodwwfca
    Janelle Chanona jchanona@oceana.org |501-610-2358| Skype: jchanona.oceana

  • WWF deeply concerned over imminent certification of Mexican tuna fishery

    Yellowfin Tuna © naturepl.com / Doc White / WWFGland, Switzerland, 5 August 2017 – WWF has expressed its deep concern at the likely Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the Northeastern Tropical Pacific tuna dolphin-set purse seine fishery. WWF had previously objected to this certification proposal due to its belief that impacts of the fishery on depleted dolphin populations have not been sufficiently examined and addressed, therefore not meeting the MSC standard. An independent adjudicator assigned to consider the objection has now dismissed WWF's challenge.  
    "This is a deeply troubling outcome that we believe shows that the MSC standard is not consistently being adhered to by certifiers and that the objections procedure provides insufficient opportunity for consideration of the scientific basis for certifiers' conclusions," said Franck Hollander, Seafood Officer for WWF-Germany and the global team lead for WWF on this project.
    In the waters of the Eastern Pacific, one technique used for decades to catch tuna involves targeting schools of tuna associated with dolphins, contributing to high dolphin mortality. Despite reductions in the number of dolphins killed by this practice, it is yet unknown whether populations have recovered from dramatic declines that began in the late 1950s and continued though the early 1990s.
    In October 2016, WWF filed an objection to the MSC assessment conducted by an independent certifier based on two factors: that the information used to assess fishery impacts on depleted dolphin species was not transparent and that the assessment did not accurately account for impacts of the fishery on dolphin populations.
     "While WWF continues to support the MSC as the world's leading wild-caught sustainable seafood certification program, it remains our opinion that the Northeastern Tropical Pacific purse seine tuna fishery does not meet the MSC standard. Depleted dolphin populations that frequently associate with commercially-targeted schools of tuna in the Eastern Pacific could be negatively impacted by this fishery. WWF believes the existing science does not support the conclusions made in the assessment," Hollander said.
    "WWF urges all stakeholders to work together to improve fishing practices and the availability of up-to-date scientific information on the impacted dolphin stocks in order to quantify and address any impacts of the fishery," said Enrique Sanjurjo, Lead, Food Practice, WWF-Mexico.
    WWF recommends that seafood buyers should not consider this fishery as sustainable.
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    For media requests, please contact:
    Rucha Naware | WWF International | rnaware@wwfint.org | +44 739 377 6573
    For technical questions, please contact:
    Franck Hollander | WWF-Germany | franck.hollander@wwf.de
    About WWF
    WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit www.panda.org/news for latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media

  • Snaring crisis devastating Asia's wildlife, jeopardizing decades of tiger conservation efforts

    Rangers demonstrating a snare, Cambodia. © © Ranjan Ramchandani / WWF29 July 2017 – On Global Tiger Day today, WWF is urging tiger-range governments to strengthen anti-poaching efforts and crack down on a severe wildlife snaring crisis that is threatening wildlife across Asia, especially the world's remaining wild tigers, which number only around 3,900.
    Easy to make from widely available material such as bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are deadly traps that are fast becoming the plague of Asia's forests. Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade, which is now reaching an estimated US$20 billion annually[1], poachers are increasingly using snares to trap wild tigers, elephants, leopards and other animals that are in high demand in the black market.  
    "Snares are dangerous, insidious and quickly becoming a major contributor to the wave of extinction that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia – and tigers are being swept up in this crisis. All efforts to recover wild tigers are now imperiled by snaring on a massive scale. We cannot over emphasize the need for strong government commitment and investment in rangers who are on the frontline of conservation, clearing snares and apprehending those who set them," said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive.
    In the rare occasion that a wild tiger is able to escape a snare, it suffers debilitating injuries that prevent it from hunting, eventually causing it to die of starvation or infection. In addition, snares maim or kill any animal that activates them thus dealing a double blow to wild tigers, by trapping the prey base they need to survive and reproduce.
    "It's impossible to know how many snares are being set up every day, and threatening wildlife in these critical habitats. Hundreds of thousands of deadly snares are removed by rangers from Asia's protected areas annually, but this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Rohit Singh, wildlife law enforcement expert at WWF.
    Within the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only place on Earth where wild tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found in the same habitat, snare traps are estimated to have doubled between 2006 and 2014[2]
    Yet, many of such critical habitats lack adequate resources for protection. In nearby Rimbang Baling, one of several protected areas in Sumatra, there are only two full-time government rangers out of a total of 26 mostly community-based rangers. Together, they patrol over 1,400 square kilometres, an area equivalent to nearly twice the size of New York City.
    "Removing these silent traps is not enough. Rangers on the ground must be supported by greater resources and strong legislation to take action against illegal poachers with snares," added Singh. "In addition, local communities must also be recognized and empowered as stakeholders in conservation. Protecting biodiversity is in the interest of both wildlife and people and communities can play a critical role in safeguarding vital ecosystems."
    In the Gunung Leuser National Park, which makes up just about a third of the entire World Heritage site in Sumatra, ecosystem services are valued at over US$ 600 million per year, while the park stores over 1.6 billion tons of carbon and provides water to four million people[3]. Local communities rely heavily on these critical resources to survive, making it an even stronger imperative to halt the snaring crisis, and help safeguard the livelihoods of local communities.
    As snares tighten their grip across Asia, conservation organizations across the continent are calling for urgent action. For example, in Cambodia, conservation groups led by Wildlife Alliance are launching an awareness movement to educate the public on avoiding the consumption of wild meat, which further fuels the snaring crisis.
    In 2010, tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – TX2, or the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022. Since 2016, the long trend of decline in global wild tiger numbers has halted for now and may even begin to rise, signaling a beacon of hope for global tiger conservation. Without urgent efforts to strengthen anti-poaching and reinforce investments in rangers, the poaching crisis will turn the trend back towards decline.
    Notes to Editors

    1. Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to reach USD20 billion per year, which makes wildlife trafficking the world's 4th largest illicit trade, after narcotics, human trafficking and trade in counterfeit goods.
    2. The number of snare traps in Sumatra recorded in 2013 and 2014 are doubled, when compared to the preceding eight years, suggesting a higher number of poachers in the area. Data is based on a study by D. Risdianto et al., Biological Conservation, Vol. 204 Part B, pp. 306-312, 2016.
    3. Based on WWF's report, 'Not for Sale', 2017, by Dalberg Global Development Advisors.

    For further information
    WWF International Media teamnews@wwfint.org | +44 7887 954116
    Jialing Lim
    Communications Manager, WWF Tigers Alive jllim@wwfnet.org | +65 9298 0961
    About WWF
    WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.  WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org/news for latest news and media resources.