Grace Williams investigates how a new UN treaty on ocean conservation could help protect the planet
Photo by Jean Wimmerlin
Legislation to declare certain parts of our waters as ocean sanctuaries could protect fish populations from being over-exploited, which would disrupt the food chain and marine biodiversity. The function of our oceans is crucial in sustaining life on Earth now more than ever, as it acts as a ‘sink’ for excess heat and CO2 produced by modern malpractice and over-consumption of natural resources.
‘High seas’ are defined as the parts of the open ocean far from coastlines and economic areas. These areas are being devastated by poor, exploitative practices. These practices include deep-sea mining to generate energy, and activities such as whale hunting. Whaling has been widely denounced, however whale-hunting countries Norway, Iceland, and Japan still upholds the practice with some quota.
The Proposed Legislation
A United Nations treaty to legally protect high seas internationally could be implemented in the near future, though this suggestion is being met with disagreement by many countries, including whale-hunting countries, as well as the U.S.A. As it stands, most protective legislation is within smaller regions or own countries, however, there is currently no overarching law to protect the oceanic body as a whole, agreed upon by all member states of the UN.
If this legislation is successfully passed, it would protect and retain marine diversity and conserve the important functions of our oceans. Protected creatures include the bluefin tuna, of which only 12% of its population in 1975 remains in the oceans; in the Black Sea, bluefin tuna all but disappeared in the 1980s, and the population has yet to recover.
A Call for Stewardship
Until suitable bills are passed however, our ocean is at risk of being taken advantage, and we can help by promoting and supporting sustainable fishing practices, and minimising eating fish. After all, if we humans are the stewards of the Earth, is it not selfish to believe that we are the only organisms entitled to the fruits of the ocean? The ownership of the ocean lies with not just the humans that extract food, water, and jewels from it, but arguably more-so to the wonderful creatures that inhabit it.
Surely, it is not right that as a result of our human actions, harmful chemicals, radioactive waste and oil is deposited in the waters – destroying marine habitats, and is dismissed as just collateral damage. We must take responsibility and protect and appreciate the oceans, before they too are destroyed at our hands.
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