Anders Bekeken

Our Oceans’ Last Chance: Protect the High Seas

Geschreven op 17-1-2019 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The open ocean, called the high seas, lies outside the boundaries of any country, making up nearly two-thirds of our ocean and providing 90 percent of the habitat for all ocean life. But only about half of 1 percent of the high seas are fully protected from fishing, mining, and other human activity.

Delegates from more than 100 countries met at the United Nations in New York in September 2018 to start negotiating a treaty to try to change that. Half the planet is at stake in this fight. Help us protect the precious ocean life that lives in the high seas, for generations to come.

Our current system of managing the waters that cover almost half our planet does little to ensure the long-term survival of marine ecosystems.

What makes the high seas “high?” Legally, the sea becomes “high” when you sail beyond the waters under the control of a nation-state, about 200 miles from the coastline. Informally, the high seas, an area covering nearly half the planet, are a place of loose regulation and lax enforcement—the aquatic equivalent of the Wild West.

That is, perhaps, overstating the lawlessness of the open ocean, but only slightly. The 17th-century concept of “freedom of the seas” has been somewhat circumscribed by a series of treaties developed in the 20th-century that establish different rules and standards for different human activities on the high seas. These rules now form an inconsistent and outdated legal patchwork that leaves the long-term survival of marine ecosystems in the balance.

Notice where two, or even three, organizations share authority for the same spot in the ocean. The area directly south of Africa, for example, is within the jurisdiction of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization, and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, in addition to the global bodies that control shipping in the region (the International Maritime Organization), seabed mining (International Seabed Authority), and various other treaties (e.g., the Convention on Migratory Species).

Each of these agreements and organizations have different standards and requirements governing human activity, and there is little or no cooperation between them. This uncoordinated governance is not a good thing—and not just because there can be a conflict of authority. To draw a comparison, think of what could happen if there are eight doctors treating the same patient without talking to one another.

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