The High Seas Are Like a Failed State: Ocean Rescue Commission

By George Backwell
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Green Ocean: File photo

The health of the global ocean is in decline and an integrated rescue package needs to be applied over the next five years, according to The Global Ocean Commission, made up of former Heads of State, Government, ministers and prominent business leaders.

The Commission has spent 18 months investigating the decline of the global ocean and developed a rescue package of eight proposals to restore and protect its natural capital and services.

"Unless we turn the tide on ocean decline within five years, the international community should consider turning the high seas into an off-limits regeneration zone until its condition is restored," said José María Figueres, Co-chair of the Commission.

"Without proper governance, a minority will continue to abuse the freedom of the high seas, plunder the riches that lie beneath the waves, take more than a fair share, and benefit at the expense of the rest of us, especially the poorest", said Trevor Manuel, Co-chair of the Commission. It requires political will and bold leadership but the costs of inaction are clear."

"The high seas are like a failed state. Poor governance and the absence of policing and management mean valuable resources are unprotected or being squandered," said David Miliband, Co-chair of the Commission. "The high seas belong to us all. We know what needs to be done but we can't do it alone."

The Commission's proposals calls for the negotiation of a new Agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), extending governance to the 64% of the global ocean that lies outside national jurisdiction, the protection of which is seen as essential for overall ocean health, as well as government subsidies to be immediately capped and eliminated within five years, mandatory tracking of all vessels fishing in the high seas, a ban on the transshipment of fish at sea, measures to end plastics pollution, and binding standards for the regulation and control of offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

Failure to take collective responsibility for ocean health within five years should trigger consideration by the international community of designating the high seas as a regeneration zone, said the Commission. With the objective of fish stock recovery, this would mean the prevention of industrial fishing in high seas areas where Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) are ineffective.

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