Global Ocean Commission Launched

  • February 12, 2013

The Global Ocean Commission was launched today in London, bringing together international leaders in an independent body to analyze key threats to the world's oceans and make recommendations for future sustainable management.

Chaired by former Costa Rican President José Maria Figueres, South African cabinet Minister Trevor Manuel, and former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband MP, they are joined by a panel of senior political, finance, and business figures from around the world, all intent on looking for solutions to the crises facing the world's oceans. 

Pressures from overfishing and resulting habitat and biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, and emerging issues such as the extraction of deep-sea genetic resources and the future of seabed mining must now be carefully investigated, and solutions must be found.

The U.N. Law of the Sea was a great achievement, but we need a new governance framework for today's global ocean. David Miliband, Commissioner, Global Ocean Commission

“No part of our planet has suffered so much in recent decades the brunt of unsustainable business practices, such as the international waters of our oceans. These waters represent nearly fifty percent of the surface of the Earth, provide the oxygen without which we would not exist and are a rich source of biodiversity. Yet few governments will provide the attention it deservesperhaps because this huge area belongs to no one and, as such, is being over-exploited by all who have access to it,” wrote Mr. Figueres in an op-ed for publication EFE Verde from the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year.

The Commission has been formed with the mandate to investigate the main threats to the high seas and to develop recommendations for addressing them. It is hoped that it will help galvanise the development and implementation of a cost-effective system for managing the world's high seas in ways that will reverse the decline in fisheries and other living marine resources, and protect the habitats in which they live.

Despite the efforts of the international community to create a comprehensive governance framework for the oceans—including the legally binding United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS) - which has been signed and ratified by 159 countries and the European Union—much work remains to be done, particularly in protecting marine biodiversity and ending illegal fishing. Moreover, a handful of countries, chief among them the United States, have yet to ratify the convention.

“The U.N. Law of the Sea was a great achievement, but we need a new governance framework for today's global ocean,” Commissioner Miliband told the United Kingdom's Observer newspaper.

He continued "The worst of the current system is plunder and pillage on a massive scale. It is the ecological equivalent of the financial crisis. The long-term costs of the mismanagement of our oceans are at least as great as long-term costs of the mismanagement of the financial system. We are living as if there are three or four planets instead of one, and you can't get away with that."

“The Global Ocean Commission is the right organisation at the right time,” said Commissioner Manuel.

His views are echoed by Joshua Reichert, Executive Vice President of the Pew Charitable Trusts, who stated: “Nearly 10 years after establishing the Pew Ocean Commission to assess the state of U.S. oceans and to recommend ways to improve ocean health, it is very timely to focus the world's attention on the problems of overfishing, habitat and biodiversity destruction, and good governance in the world's international waters. Pew, together with a number of partners, convened the Global Ocean Commission as an independent, high-level effort to engage international thought leaders in charting a pathway toward an action plan for change to address this global challenge. We wish the Commission all the best as they begin deliberations and look forward to seeing their recommendations when they are complete.”

The first meeting of the Commission will be held in March this year in Cape Town, South Africa, and final recommendations will be presented to the U.N. in 2014.

Visit the Global Ocean Commissions' website for more information.

Topics: Oceans, Environment