The Pew Charitable Trusts is already working on many of the issues that will be investigated by the Global Ocean Commission, among them:
Only about 0.5 percent of the global ocean is fully protected from exploitation in the form of no-take reserves, where no extractive activity is allowed. At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the international community made a commitment to establish a representative network of marine reserves. Little progress has been made, however.
To better manage fisheries, we need to know how much of which species is being caught - whether targeted or by-catch—by what means, and also what else is being caught as ‘collateral damage'. Current fisheries management is often based on outdated methods that focus only on the species being targeted and is not always accurate. Knowledge is particularly lacking on the high seas, where there is poor regulation and where associated species, from corals and sponges to marine mammals, turtles, sharks, and other fish, are often caught as ‘by-catch'. Destructive fishing methods and overfishing are emptying our oceans of marine life, but action can be taken to restore their health and restock their waters.
Illegal fishers take advantage of patchy laws and regulations, inadequate communication, weak surveillance and enforcement, and poor intelligence-sharing among authorities. As a result, these “pirate” fishers can make significant profits without fear of prosecution.
Catching the thieves that are stealing the world's fish, and deterring such activity in the future, requires a shift from business as usual. Pirate fishers, currently engaged in a low-risk, high-reward activity, must be made to realize that the threat of sanctions is real, and the opportunity to exploit the system is not worth the cost. Pew's global campaign to end illegal fishing is focused on designing and implementing a cost-effective global fisheries enforcement system to end illegal fishing.
The international community spent several decades developing and implementing a comprehensive governance framework for the oceans, which includes the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982), a legally binding ‘Constitution for the oceans' signed and ratified by 160 States and the European Union. The Convention provides a sound legal framework for managing maritime space but also has a number of problems. It is essentially sectorial in nature, based on the regulation of specific industries and activities such as fishing, shipping, and seabed mining. There is little interplay between the various sectors, resulting in considerable inconsistency in the setting and application of rules. Even if all the existing agreements were implemented and enforced, serious gaps in the oceans governance system would remain, especially with regards to the high seas, the final frontier of the ocean.
There is no shortage of ideas for better management of the high seas. Indeed, there is a broad level of agreement on the sorts of measures needed, not only to drastically improve the current situation but also to reverse the ongoing degradation of the marine environment.