A Visionary Deal To Protect Ocean Life?

by Magnus Eckeskog

March 29, 2016

The United Nations is meeting this week to develop a new treaty to save our oceans. Will they set the stage for a game changing agreement?

Oceanic whitetip shark and pilot fishes off the Egyptian coast.

© Axel Heimken / Greenpeace

This week 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.

Outlaw Oceans

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.

The Movement to Save Our Seas

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.

You made this happen.

Greenpeace divers together with scientists from Silliman University, Apo island community members, the Marine Protected Area Management Board and Apo island dive wardens, unfurl a banner reading "Save our Seas". The Marine Protected Area (MPA) was destroyed by Typhoon Pablo in December 2012. An increase in extreme weather events is one of the predicted effects of climate change. Greenpeace is in Apo island as part of its Philippine leg of the “Ocean Defenders Tour of South East Asia".

For far too long, the future of our oceans has been discussed away from public scrutiny with very little progress. Greed has driven the opposition of countries profiting from ocean exploitation. Whether you signed the petition, sent one of the tens of thousands of tweets to world leaders, or are one of the millions of ocean lovers ensuring threats to marine life cannot be ignored, you stood up and said NO MORE to this.

And world leaders listened.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in the coming years to get this deal in place and make sure it’s as strong as it needs to be. We need you to keep up the pressure and demand that ocean protection is at the heart of this treaty.

Stay tuned and follow us (#ThisWay2Treaty) as we will be at the UN headquarters on your behalf. We will be your ears and voice during these negotiations, showing decision makers that people are watching and expect them to take action to protect our ocean.

By Magnus Eckeskog

Magnus Eckeskog is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic.

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