Richard Branson – The high seas extend across nearly half the surface of our planet – a vast, critical part of the world’s ecosystem that has so far escaped meaningful and much-needed regulation. Hopefully, that is about to change. This week, delegates are meeting at the United Nations in New York to begin negotiating the text of a high seas biodiversity treaty.
The treaty is a once-in-a-generation chance to safeguard Earth’s last great wilderness. As one of the most important new instruments in international environmental law for decades, it could propel the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea into the 21st Century and protect marine biodiversity and the habitats of our planet’s marine life.
We must seize the moment and protect the ocean. The multiple threats confronting the marine environment and all who depend on it have reached crisis levels in terms of loss of marine biodiversity but also as consequence of climate change. Scientists have confirmed that 2018 was the hottest year ever recorded for the global ocean, a record that is not expected to hold for long. A warmer ocean leads to more powerful hurricanes and rising seas, and drives species to migrate to cooler waters, while killing precious coral reefs.
The chemistry of the seas is also changing. After millions of years of stability, CO2 in the ocean is now causing it to acidify 100 times faster than at any other time in human history. Plastic and noise pollution permeate from pole to pole, overfishing continues largely unchecked, and deep-sea mining is poised to assault the marine environment. Populations of some of the most iconic ocean creatures, such as Pacific bluefin tuna and leatherback turtles, have already declined dramatically.
Governments and other key players have been treading water for far too long. Even though the health of the ocean is being talked about more than ever, action is failing to keep up with the catastrophic pace of the changes confronting marine life. It is time to raise our ambition.
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