The ocean provides much more than just food, clean air and transportation. As the Commission rightly points out, three billion people around the world depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods. 350 million jobs worldwide are linked to the ocean, and the market value of marine and coastal resources has been estimated at $3 trillion. Yet we are polluting and depleting it at a mind-boggling pace. Diminishing fish stocks, plastic waste entering the food chain and other pollutants creating massive dead zones – these are clear signs of a system in serious distress. The ocean is not a bottomless resource, and as someone who spent a good amount of his life on, in, or close to the ocean, it pains me to see how few people recognise that this is something we should all be concerned about.
Nevertheless, From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Ocean gives me hope that we can turn the tide (no pun intended!) on some of the threats affecting our ocean. The report identifies five major drivers of ocean decline – rising demand for resources; technological advances; declining fish stocks; climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss; and weak high-seas governance.
To be sure, these are all momentous challenges. But the Commission quickly proceeds to outline “eight proposals to advance high seas recovery” – a comprehensive set of action and policy options that are inspired in part by the many successful approaches that already work at the local or national level. The proposals range from keeping plastics out of the ocean to ending fishing subsidies and creating a high seas regeneration zone
Much of this will require political courage and collective action on a global scale, but I remain optimistic that ocean recovery is possible in our lifetime. I encourage everyone to read the Commission’s compelling report and lobby politicians everywhere to take these recommendations seriously. It’s our best hope to ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the abundance and breath-taking beauty of the ocean.
In September this year, the United Nations will begin discussing the future of the high seas and how they should be governed. Please join the mission for a healthy, living ocean and ask Ban Ki-moon to call for high seas protection and ocean health. Sign the petition on change.org.