Many people are unaware that that the ocean produces half of the oxygen that we breathe and absorbs around a quarter of excess carbon and heat humans produce. Unfortunately this very giving resource continues to be degraded at an alarming rate through overfishing and other unsustainable activities, which greatly impacts its resilience and ability to keep giving.
The High Seas and deep sea areas beyond national jurisdiction make up half of the planet’s surface yet they particularly resemble a ‘failed state’ due to a lack of rules, monitoring and enforcement. Unless significant changes are made, both for the immediate and long term, the impacts that half of the planet are dealing with could reach a state of no return.
For many years this task has been the charge of conservationists, scientist and researchers, but it now requires support from all sides. It is time for a multi-sector approach and to engage a broad coalition of stakeholders to protect biodiversity and ecosystem functionality of the ocean. New technologies allow for interventions that are in tune with nature and are financially and commercially viable. Investments in initiatives such as blue carbon can provide opportunities for the private sector to support ocean challenges, while providing much needed resource. A new implementing agreement to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas can provide a legal basis for large scale protection.
The understanding of critical functions at the heart of the global lifecycle are key to being able to operate in tune with processes that lead to marine abundance and maintaining the resilience that allows the oceans to maintain their status quo. Effective ocean governance and infrastructure needs to be at the heart of global sustainability.
How this challenge is addressed will define our generation.