Hope for the High Seas

Last week at the United Nations, countries took the first, essential steps towards closing the huge gaps which exist in international law which leave the high seas—those areas beyond national jurisdiction—so poorly protected.

The high seas cover nearly 50% of our planet and 64% of the ocean. They are the largest area of unprotected wilderness. Since 2003, IUCN has played a key role in fostering international action to safeguard this blue heart of the planet, just as it supports efforts at the national level to conserve coastal and marine biodiversity within national waters.

This is great news. The Tragedy of the commons affects so many of the world’s remote ecosystems.

"The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen." 

To have laws and regulations on international waters meaning protecting the processes which connect ecosystems through currents, such as coral larvae dispersal, and populations of fish that [surprisingly] don’t adhere to arbitrary national boundaries.

“A key element of last Friday’s decision is that it recognizes, for the first time, the need to share the benefits of marine genetic resources fairly and with particular concern for the needs of developing countries, which often lack the capacity to explore and exploit these resources…” 

Everything is connected, and protection should take that into consideration, which means countries must work together, the rich and the poor, to close the loopholes that allow industries exploiting marine resources to go unchecked. You can’t just turn a blind eye to the happenings over the imaginary line, but you do need the go-ahead from a set of regulations, else the whole world will be up in arms over acting beyond your jurisdiction.

This is why a step like this, is no small one. It is huge, half the world huge, and we should celebrate, support and demand progress for the future.

Full IUCN article here.