Wednesday, 19 August 2009

IUCN Seamounts Project successfully kicked off

IUCN's Global Marine Programme recently launched its Seamounts Project – the first GEF-funded project looking at the management of ocean areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (i.e. areas beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast).

Seamounts, underwater mountains rising from the ocean floor, are found in all oceans of the world and are abundant features of the seafloor. They are known to be hotspots of biological diversity and production, and are important for marine biodiversity and the status of marine food webs. Migratory fish and cetaceans rely on seamounts as well for their food supply. Limited knowledge of seamount-associated fauna to date indicates that many species grow and reproduce slowly, thus are highly vulnerable to overexploitation.

Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) are relatively large areas of ocean space of approximately 200,000 km² or greater, adjacent to the continents in coastal waters where primary productivity is generally higher than in open ocean areas. The boundaries are shown in the map below.

LMEs have traditionally been used to help coordinate management efforts in coastal waters, but interest in their application to the governance of ocean areas within LME boundaries but beyond national jurisdiction is growing. The Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystems Project (ASCLME), located in the Western Indian Ocean and a partner of the Seamounts Project, is pioneering a project to use the LME approach to managing the high seas. This project will complement efforts in improving the management and conservation of high seas resources in the southern Indian Ocean.

For more information see the official Seamounts Project blog or project website