This is my first time in New York, but neither the soaring temperatures, the rush nor the crowds seem to faze me, this is nothing compared to India! This is also my first time at a UN meeting, joining experts from all over the world as governments, international organisations and civil society met to discuss how we can ensure better protection of the high seas. As marine biologist Lance Morgan recently said in the National Geographic "We need to stop viewing the high seas as ... a common straw that we can all suck from".
The meeting made headway in acknowledging both, how important oceans are for livelihoods, food security, economic revenue and cultural identity, as well as the growing pressures on our oceans. Protecting our blue planet is seen as a top priority and, as many agreed, the time for discussion has passed. We now need to get down to business to meet the 2015 deadline that was agreed a couple of years ago in Rio. Time is running out for the oceans, we all need to work together. As my colleague Milko from Argentina put it, "All countries should be champions in the World Cup of the oceans!"
It has been very heartening to hear a good number of countries, from the Caribbean to the Pacific, from Europe to Asia, from Latin America to Africa all standing up for the need for a new agreement at the UN to protect high seas marine life. Unfortunately this enthusiasm for a new high seas agreement was not shared by a small number of countries, including the US, Iceland, Japan and Russia. This led to lively discussions on the floor, with, for example, the Bahamas warning Japan that if there will not be proper management of the high seas perhaps they should be completely closed!
The US opposition to a new high seas agreement is particularly surprising, as they have been at the forefront of fighting for ocean protection. In fact, it really has been quite the week for the oceans here in the US. On Monday and Tuesday the US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC. In the lead-up to this conference, Greenpeace campaigners worldwide, including myself, delivered messages to US embassies urging Secretary Kerry to reconsider the US position and support the High Seas agreement. Thousands of you supported our call by signing our Dear John petition and tweeting for high seas protection. However, not one of the over 10,000 tweets calling for #HighSeas protection showed up on the twitter feed of the conference. (Being from a country that also prides itself on its tradition of democracy, I was truly saddened to hear about this censorship.) Nonetheless, there were a lot of positive announcements resulting from the Our Ocean conference, and it ended on an optimistic note. But US representatives in New York, as if oblivious to the meeting down the road advocating strong ocean action, continued to try to thwart progress on launching a new agreement. This contradiction continues to baffle us!
Oceans continue to be the flavour of the month here in the US, with the Global Ocean Commission launching their proposals for ocean protection on the 24th June here in New York. Let's hope that they speak out loudly on the need for high seas protection, but let's also keep up our efforts and build a movement that cannot be ignored: join our call for Ocean Sanctuaries now.
For me, it is now time to say bye bye New York - I must say you were really "warm". I hope to visit you again in January when discussions will continue. You will certainly be more chilled then – hopefully in your politics as much as in your weather! Either way, as they say in the US, "I'm game!"
Rachel Pearlin is a Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace India.