Today governments from all over the world will meet at the United Nations in New York to develop a new treaty to save our oceans. We will be there to ensure clear rules for the creation of sanctuaries that will give our oceans the protection they desperately need.
The ocean belongs to all of us. There’s no other place on the planet that is as rich in diverse, beautiful, weird and wonderful creatures. This fragile treasure is threatened by overfishing, habitat destruction and expanding extractive activities such as oil and gas exploitation and deep-sea mining. The added pressures of climate change and increasing ocean acidification is damaging our ocean’s ability to perform its vital functions. As the first UN Oceans Assessment points out: urgent global action is needed to protect the world’s oceans from the many threats they face.
Two thirds of our oceans are outside national borders and belong to all of us. Currently there is nothing in place that could create and manage ocean sanctuaries in these waters. It’s like the wild west, where the ocean and the seabed are open to reckless exploitation. The existing ocean laws focus more on the right to exploit, than on the duty to protect.
As a result, less than one percent of these waters are protected. This is far from what scientists say; that 30 percent or more of the oceans should be protected through a global network of ‘ocean sanctuaries’ if we want to stop the loss of marine life, rebuild fish stocks and resilience to climate change.
Starting today we have an extraordinary opportunity to turn this situation around and protect the vast expanses of ocean which are currently so vulnerable. After ten years of dragging their feet, governments are finally going to assemble the building blocks for a new ocean treaty. A treaty that must change the current system from one that focuses on exploitation to one that ensures the conservation of ocean life for generations to come.