Peggy Kalas – We’re approaching a once in a generation opportunity for transformative change for the ocean – and we need to make it happen.
In 1967, Arvid Pardo delivered his landmark speech before the United Nations General Assembly urging countries to consider the resources of the ocean in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) as “the common heritage of mankind” and the need for international cooperation to protect the ocean for future generations.
Pardo’s compelling speech brought to light the importance of the ocean and laid the foundation for the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, considered the “Constitution of the Ocean.” While the convention set up the ocean constitution, many of the rights it provides have been used while some of the responsibilities that go with them haven’t been fully respected.
Key among them: the responsibility to adequately protect the ocean’s immense and unique biodiversity. And UNCLOS also hasn’t kept pace with the rapid technological, scientific and legal developments of the past 30 years. This is specifically true for the high seas – out of sight, and sometimes called the “forgotten half” of our planet.
This global commons is the biggest biosphere of the planet – comprising 64 per cent of the global ocean and nearly half our planet, and provides nearly 90 per cent of the habitat for all life on Earth. Yet, currently less than 1 per cent of the high seas is fully protected, offering little refuge for ecosystems and species.
But now, fifty years since Pardo’s transformative speech, we have a golden opportunity to address all kinds of issues that no one even dreamed about in 1982 when UNCLOS was adopted. This includes ocean warming and acidification, massive dead zones, depletion of fish and marine biodiversity, noise, plastic and chemical pollution, and all the other pressures we now understand are threatening the ability of the ocean to sustain itself, and us.
Read full blog.