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 preserve 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 to avoid the worst effects of climate change and safeguard marine life. According to Greenpeace, to protect the oceans, we need a global network of ocean sanctuaries. 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 focus on exercising the right to exploit ocean waters instead of doing much to protect them. Several organizations enable countries to fish, drill, or mine the oceans.
The world’s oceans lack a global mechanism to protect them, and there are no international rules to create ocean sanctuaries. If a Global Ocean Treaty is put in place by 2020, it will lay the foundation for creating and implementing ocean sanctuaries. According to a recent report, UN negotiations “could pave the way for the protection of oceans outside of national borders.” 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 most extensive 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 enter 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 the 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 across five continents tested positive for plastic, according to a 2017 study.
Nordic governments are calling for a global treaty to deal with ocean plastic pollution. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland are joining the World Wildlife Fund in calling for a worldwide 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.