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Executive Summary for December 1st

In our weekly roundup, we report on a call from the Sustainable Ocean Summit for the business community to be involved in ocean issues, plus the reasons why the U.S. lags behind in aquaculture. Also: a new species of fish that lives at the greatest depths ever recorded.

Published on Dec. 1, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Business Urged to Dive Into Ocean Governance

France’s ambassador for the oceans said 2017 has been a pivotal year for ocean issues, but that business has largely been missing from the table as the United Nations moves to negotiate a far-reaching treaty to preserve biodiversity on the high seas.

“I think personally you didn’t participate enough in these processes,” ambassador Serge Segura told executives gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this week for the Sustainable Ocean Summit.

Segura was referring to the first U.N. Ocean Conference, held in June in New York to thrash out strategies to achieve targets for ocean health by 2030 – known as Sustainable Development Goal 14. The following month, diplomats met again to approve a recommendation that the U.N. General Assembly begin negotiations in 2018 to draft an international treaty to protect biodiversity in the 60 percent of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction.

“The disappointment from me came from the lack of companies of all kinds at these meetings,” Segura said. “I did meet with companies with something to sell, but it’s not enough, I think. All kinds of companies, even those with nothing to do with oceans – working in the mountains, for example – have responsibilities. Many things created on the land finish their life in the oceans.”

The ambassador was preaching to the converted for the most part. The Sustainable Ocean Summit was mounted by the World Ocean Council, “an international business alliance for corporate ocean responsibility,” and featured sessions on the impact of ocean governance.

Red Tape Strangling Blue Ventures

Fish farming is big business around the world – with one glaring exception. The United States, for instance, has no offshore aquaculture operations. The reason? Bureaucracy, according to aquatic entrepreneurs.

The problem is that there is no lead agency responsible for approving offshore fish farms in federal waters, said Jerry Schubel, chief executive of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, who has worked on aquaculture issues. “We don’t have a single permitting agency for aquaculture – you have to go to agency to agency,” he told attendees at the Sustainable Ocean Summit in Halifax, Canada, on Wednesday.

This has left projects languishing, such as a proposal for a fish farm to raise yellowtail jack 4.5 miles (7km) off the San Diego coast. “The main impediments are the regulatory constraints and lack of vision,” said Neil Sims, co-chief executive of Kampachi Farms, a Hawaii-based offshore fish-farm company that plans to seek approval for a pilot project in the Gulf of Mexico.

He noted that federal licenses for offshore fish farms last only 10 years. “Very few investors will invest” on that timeline, he said. “It takes three to four years just to get going and in the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas interests have veto rights over any aquaculture operations.”

New Fish Living on Deep Ocean Floor

According to a new paper, a newly discovered species of fish, the Mariana snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei), found in the Mariana Trench near Guam, is the ocean’s deepest fish.

Its skin is a translucent white, and it has no scales. It lives nearly 26,200ft (8,000m) below the Pacific Ocean’s surface.

Researchers deployed mackerel-baited traps to collect 37 individuals from depths of around 23,000–26,000ft (7,000-8,000m), and used DNA analysis and a CT scanner to identify the new species. Their paper says the specimens are “probably the deepest collected fish from the ocean bottom with corroborating depth data” – although they managed to film another “remarkable” related species on the same ship at an even greater depth.

Not a lot is known about how the fish lives at such depth and pressure. Eating small crustaceans and shrimp, however, it manages to thrive.

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