Former British foreign secretary David Miliband. (Photo Credit: World Economic Forum)
Global Ocean Commission created to reverse degradation of high seas
Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 01:40 (GMT + 9)
A new international group of politicians is spreading the word that the vast high seas all over the world, which stretch 200 nmi from coasts, benefit from little legal protection in the face of rising overfishing, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification. These politicians are creating a new, worldwide and high-level action group.
"The worst of the current system is plunder and pillage on a massive scale," said David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary who will co-chair the Global Ocean Commission, which will begin meeting this week and offer advice to the United Nations (UN) on addressing the issues in 2014.
"It is the ecological equivalent of the financial crisis. The long-term costs of the mismanagement of our oceans are at least as great as long-term costs of the mismanagement of the financial system. We are living as if there are three or four planets instead of one, and you can't get away with that," he continued, the Observer reports.
He is joined by co-chairs former Costa Rican president Jose Maria Figueres and Trevor Manuel, a minister in the South African cabinet who will be in charge of planning. The commission will include ex-cabinet ministers from nations such as Chile, Australia, Indonesia, Canada and Nigeria, in combination with business leaders and Pascal Lamy, who heads the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Reuters reports.
Miliband said that much of the ocean was "a neglected area of global governance" despite a 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). But there are some regulatory mechanisms: the Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority was born in 1994 to control mining of deep-sea deposits, and in 2001, a UN pact was created to manage stocks of fish such as highly migratory tuna, swordfish and sharks.
Still, the Commission insists that tougher rules and "future-proofing" are necessary.
"The global ocean is essential to the health and well-being of each and every one of us," said Figueres. "It provides about half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs about a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions; but we are failing to manage it in ways that reflect its true value."
One example of why future-proofing is needed, according to Miliband, is that the 1982 UNCLOS pact had not anticipated that giant trawlers could stay at sea for weeks before returning to land.
Ole Kristian Fauchald, a law professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo, Norway, said possible changes included making ports stricter in refusing access to ships that pillage, and slashing subsidies to fishing fleets.
By Natalia Real