The oceans are a mysterious and wonderful place, home to a staggering variety of different animals and habitats. They bring joy and life to billions of people around the world. Yet you only need to glance at the news these days (at your own peril) to see that our oceans are in big trouble.
They’re facing so many different threats – industrial fishing, oil drilling, the climate crisis and even deep sea mining (I’m still hoping that this a dream and Dr Evil is holding the world to ransom for 100 million gazillion dollars – but sadly there actually is a whole industry that wants to mine the seafloor).
If our oceans are in trouble then so are we – they produce half of the Earth’s oxygen. Not only that but the deep sea is our planet’s largest reservoir of stored carbon – so they are vital for tackling the climate crisis. Not to mention that over three billion people rely on the oceans for their diet or livelihoods.
New ‘Marine Protected Areas’ can help damaged oceans recover
The good news is that when our oceans are left alone to recover they show an incredible ability to bounce back. And the best way to allow them to recover is to create a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These are areas where all harmful activities like industrial fishing are banned.
Less than 1% of the global oceans (or high seas) are properly protected – these are oceans outside of national borders.
Enter the Global Ocean Treaty
At the moment, there’s no way to create ocean sanctuaries outside of national waters – the legal mechanism for countries to agree on something like this simply doesn’t exist.
This is where the Global Ocean Treaty (GOT) comes in. Not GOT as in Game Of Thrones so don’t expect to see dragons patrolling the oceans for illegal fishing fleets.
The Global Ocean Treaty is an international agreement – currently under negotiation by governments at the UN – that would make it possible to properly protect the high seas from industrial fishing and other destructive human activities.
For the first time in history it could allow a vast network of MPAs to be created across the global oceans. This would be great news for whales and sharks, but also for the fight against the climate crisis.
Why the treaty is important
The way our global oceans are managed right now is very fragmented and it favours destructive industries rather than protection. The patchwork of regional and sector-specific authorities that currently run the show have repeatedly failed to protect the high seas.