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The World’s Oceans Need Our Protection

Ocean plastic will leave a denuded ocean for our children unless we do something now

Oceans cover 71 percent of our planet’s surface and contain 97 percent of its water. They contain 99 percent of the earth’s living space. Despite the size of our world’s oceans, only one percent of the earth’s oceans are protected by treaties. Greenpeace is calling for a Global Ocean Treaty which would protect our oceans. It calls for a global system to create and implement ocean sanctuaries on the high seas.

By 2030 we need to protect at least 30 percent of our oceans in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change and safeguard marine life. In order to protect our oceans we need a global network of ocean sanctuaries, according to Greenpeace. The ocean sanctuaries need to go beyond national jurisdiction. They would be areas where things like mining and industrial fishing are off limits.

Presently, the constitution for the oceans is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Although it lays out the rights and obligations of countries operating in the oceans, it lacks teeth. As a result, many countries have focused on exercising the right to exploit the oceans and have not done much to protect them. There are a number of organizations that enable countries to fish, drill or mine the oceans.

The world’s oceans lack a global mechanism to protect them, and there are no global rules to create ocean sanctuaries. If a Global Ocean Treaty is put in place by 2020, it would lay the foundation for how countries can both create and implement ocean sanctuaries. There are negotiations at the UN presently taking place that “could pave the way for the protection of oceans outside of national borders,” according to a recent report, and that protection could cover nearly 89 million square miles.

“The negotiations taking place here at the UN are crucial because, if they get it right, governments around the world could secure a Global Ocean Treaty by 2020 which has the teeth to realize a network of ocean sanctuaries, off-limits from harmful human activities,” said Dr Sandra Schoettner of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, in a statement.

Plastic is polluting the world’s oceans

There are an estimated 15 to 51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. Take the Great Pacific Garbage patch, a gyre of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas. It is the world’s biggest collection of plastic waste. Fish in the North Pacific eat 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic every year, which causes intestinal problems and even death. About 60 percent of all seabird species have ingested pieces of plastic, and it is estimated to increase to 99 percent by 2050.

Every year, around eight million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans. If that rate continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. The countries with coastlines bordering the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans or Mediterranean and Black seas produced 2.5 million tons of waste in 2010. Of that waste, 275 million was plastic and 31.9 million tons was coastal plastic waste. Over 80 percent of water samples collected from over five continents tested positive for plastic, according to a 2017 study.

Nordic governments are calling for a global treaty to deal with plastic pollution in the oceans. The governments of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland are joining the World Wildlife Fund in calling for a global treaty.

There is something you, the reader, can do. WWF’s global petition calls on the world’s governments to create a global treaty to deal with marine plastic pollution. Add your voice by signing it.


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