One of the great ladies of the oceans Sylvia Earle at the UN for the High Seas

© J.Girardot/Tara Expéditions

For the past ten years the delegates of the 193 countries members of the UN have gathered to explore the ways and means for reaching an international governance of the High Seas. They meet again in New York early this year (2015). The aim is to try and reach an international legal agreement that will be a historic and major breakthrough for the protection of the Ocean.

This week might be a key one in the process. The civil society organisations are strongly present to maintain the pressure on the States that are still reluctant to the idea of an international tool for a sustainable management of biodiversity in the High Seas. After the declarations of the High Seas Alliance NGOs – of which Tara Expeditions is a part – we had the pleasure of listening to Sylvia Earle, one of the great spokeswomen of civil society for the High Seas. She was speaking for the first time at the UN about the High Seas. Here is her speech:

Dr. Sylvia Earle,  Founder Sylvia Earle Alliance/Mission Blue, National Geographic Explorer in Residence

UN Ad Hoc Informal Working Group on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

Thank you,  Co-Chairs, for the privilege of speaking officially on behalf of Mission Blue, and unofficially, for those who cannot speak for themselves – the children of today and for all of those in the future – our descendants who will from their place in the future either applaud or condemn our actions – or lack of actions –concerning establishing governance  – a strong and meaningful implementing agreement under UNCLOS for biodiversity of half the world, the high seas – the ocean beyond national jurisdiction.  Of course existing agreements must be respected, but it is clear that the present framework has not and cannot address circumstances that are now a new reality

The United Nations came into existence in 1945.   I personally came into existence ten years earlier, and as a child was barely aware of the historic actions then being addressed by my species.  The ten year olds of today are more likely to be tuned in to the significance of the actions being deliberated here.  They – and we – are armed with access to unprecedented knowledge, information that did not exist when I was a child.

In less than half a century. we have some to understand what  our predecessors could not –  the living ocean – the living ocean —  drives climate and weather, generates most of the oxygen in the atmosphere, takes up much of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, holds 97 % of Earth’s water and embraces 97% of the biosphere.  Now we know. Humankind is altering the nature of the ocean and therefore,  the nature of nature,  through what we are putting in and through what we are taking out,  The ocean is large and resilient, but it is not too big to fail. What we are taking out of the sea, what we are putting into the sea are actions that are undermining the most important thing the ocean delivers to humankind – our very existence.

The new reports this week in Science,  the New York Times, and The Economist are among many reports of the evidence concerning the drastic reduction in the quantity and diversity of marine systems in recent decades and raise real concerns about the consequences to humankind of these impacts  There is a direct  link between life in the ocean and resilience to the impacts of  a warming planet, acidification of the sea, and dismemberment of the global ocean systems of life of a planet that works in our favor.

The status quo is not adequate and is not acceptable. It is high time for the High Seas, the blue half of the world, to be recognized as the blue heart of the planet, the cornerstone of Earth’s life support system, the vast but vulnerable part of the planet that until recent decades has not only been beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, but also beyond the reach of the ability of humans to effectively exploit it for short term gain.

We have an opportunity – right now – to fill the gaps in governance of half of the world, the blue half that has a disproportionate role in maintaining Earth as a planet hospitable for life as we know it.  Armed with new knowledge, we have a chance, right now, this week, to encourage governance to safeguard the high seas  – as never before in history.  And maybe, as never again.

(The ten year olds are watching.)”

20 January 2015  New York, NY

André Abreu, Head for Environment and Climate policy at Tara Expeditions


Related items : 

- John Kerry for a protection of the ocean.

- Paris appeal for the High Seas. 

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