We’re aiming for significant increases in the area of forests and oceans that are properly protected and well-managed in places we regard as particularly vital.
A tree in the city
Our determination to tackle deforestation and restore the world’s forests had a major boost this year, thanks to our partnership with Unilever – which aimed to help protect a million trees. Unilever donated more than €500,000 towards our work with local communities and governments in Brazil and Indonesia to promote better forest management. And it spread the message about the need to preserve the world’s trees. This memorable short film is one way it got the message across to a huge audience. It asked whether a tree might be safer in the city than in a rainforest.
1.55M SQ KM
In a huge step for the conservation of Antarctica’s seas and wildlife, more than 1.5 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea is now protected following a landmark agreement in 2016. It’s created the largest marine protected area in the world. We’ve been working for years to secure this protection, which was agreed by the 24 member countries plus the EU at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The current measures only extend for 35 years, but they’re a great step forward in safeguarding the whales, penguins, seals and other amazing species that live there. The deal means no fishing will be allowed in more than two-thirds of the protected area. It will help to ensure the conservation of globally important ocean habitats. And it will provide research opportunities and increase the Southern Ocean’s resilience to climate change. We’re now actively pursuing protection of three other key, large-scale areas of the ocean around Antarctica.
Belize’s spectacular barrier reef system is one of the threatened World Heritage sites we’ve been campaigning to protect this year. We launched an urgent outcry against seismic testing alongside the reef in search of offshore oil, and within three days the Belize government suspended its destructive plans. Our efforts were backed by an incredible 250,000 people who’ve supported the campaign by writing in protest to Belize’s prime minister.
Amazon deforestation curbed
An indefinite extension this year of a moratorium on forest clearance for soy in the Amazon was excellent news in the fight against deforestation. In Brazil, soy production is a major driver of forest clearance – yet deforestation there fell by 70% between 2005 and 2013. What’s been critical to this success is an ongoing commitment from the biggest soy producers to suspend Amazon deforestation. The soy moratorium, which has been renewed every year or so since 2006, ensures companies don’t trade or finance soybeans that are linked to deforestation. We encouraged key soy supply chain companies to lobby for the indefinite extension. Remarkably, the moratorium has resulted in the deforestation rate associated with soy production in the Amazon biome dropping close to zero. There’s been a marked improvement in law enforcement to clamp down on illegal forest clearing, too. And the government has established new protected areas.
UK ‘Blue Belt’
This year the UK government designated 23 new protected areas known as Marine Conservation Zones in England, taking the number of such zones to 50. This means 17% of UK waters are now protected. We responded to consultations on these sites and helped to build support for them among MPs. And, as a direct result of our complaint to the EC about the UK’s lack of protection for harbour porpoises, the governments across the UK published a consultation on six large Special Areas of Conservation for this species. We’re now pressing for a third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones, to achieve the Conservative manifesto commitment to create a ‘blue belt’ of protected areas in UK seas.
More fish in the sea
A ban on discarding unwanted commercial fish at sea should result in more fish remaining in the sea. But only if it’s implemented effectively. So, following the recent EU fisheries reform that included the ban, we’ve demonstrated the most cost-effective and efficient way to monitor how the ban is implemented and enforced: a system of onboard cameras and sensors that monitor catches. Our report on this subject, Electronic Monitoring in Fisheries Management, has been well received by UK and EU fisheries regulators and by key retailers.
Five new protected areas have been created in Brazil’s Amazonas state, covering 28,300 sq km of land that was under pressure from deforestation. The importance of protecting the forests was highlighted by the Amazon Regional Protected Areas programme, which we’ve supported since it was launched in 2002. By designating them as protected areas, the Brazilian government will help preserve the biological diversity of the region and boost local livelihoods through sustainable forest management.
An 80,000-strong WWF petition has helped to convince the Russian government to temporarily suspend offshore oil development in the Arctic. We’ve been campaigning for governments including those in the Arctic Council to protect the Arctic against the worst effects of climate change and exploitation. Our petition urged oil companies to suspend Arctic drilling for 10 years to reduce the negative effect on this precious environment. The moratorium is a first, but very important step towards environmental security in the region.