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Saving The High Seas

August 19, 2013


James Cameron and Richard Branson want action:

An important opportunity to begin responsibly managing half the planet lies before us. The United Nations will hold meetings this week to discuss the future of the high seas. Led by Brazil, the European Union, Argentina, Mexico, Monaco and others, a coalition of developed and developing nations has proposed an international agreement to modernize governance of the high seas.

The agreement would provide for high seas protected areas, and require countries proposing to engage in destructive activities to assess and manage their effects. It would also deal with the lack of any rules governing how revenue derived from developing genetic resources in international waters will be shared, an important bar to commercializing new products derived from international waters. Most important, such an agreement would begin to bring to the high seas modern management as practiced in the U.S. and elsewhere since the 1970s. Such an agreement has been discussed and debated for years at the United Nations. It is time to move beyond words to action and begin negotiations.

The United States has been the single most significant obstacle to a new high seas agreement, with the State Department citing potential opposition from members of Congress who are critics of the United Nations. Possible opposition from pharmaceutical, biotech and/or cosmetics companies involved in marine genetic research has also been mentioned, although no such opposition has surfaced in the more than six years these issues have been widely discussed.

Sure hope they succeed. But if they really want to make an impact they will need to address the fact that modern human culture (energy consumption, materialism, self-gratification, food fetishism, etc., etc..) is what is really destroying the oceans (and the dry parts of the planet, too). Better regulations and protections for the high seas are great, though it’s hard to say that even regulated waters are thriving. More important, ocean acidification, and warming, are the real existential threats. So hopefully Cameron and Branson will next look deep at their own roles, and the industries they are in, in promoting a culture that is destroying the seas they love.

What sacrifices to their lifestyles or business income are they willing to make?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kristen permalink
    August 20, 2013 12:26 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who read this and thought “fantastic! No more anything-goes attitudes on the high seas” until I got to the section about commercialization and applying a U.S.-like management scheme and realized that all this will do is assimilate the high seas into our harvest-everything-shamelessly culture without addressing the real issues😦 Thank you for your insightful commentary and for drawing attention to what’s really wrong with our relationship with the sea (and the land).

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