On the occasion of World Oceans day in June, Liz Karan, Director of Pew Charitable Trust’s campaign to protect ocean life on the high seas, referred to five surprising facts that prove once again why we should be more concerned about ocean conservation.
While this is an important day dedicated to ocean protection, we should bear in mind that action must not be limited to only one day. The following statistics show why it crucial to take action for the protection of the high seas.
Reason #1: 2 million of unidentified species are estimated to live in the ocean
The high seas are difficult to explore, and it may be decades or longer before scientists know just how much life this region of the ocean supports. Some scientists estimate that there could be millions of undiscovered speciesbeyond national jurisdiction.
Reason #2: The high seas are home to 95% of living space
The high seas feature an stonishing biodiversity, with organisms ranging from tiny plankton and bacteria to whales, sharks, tuna, and more—all of which need healthy waters to survive.
Reason #3: Every second breath is ocean
You can thank the ocean for every breath you take, says Mrs Karan referring specifically to microscopic organisms called phytoplankton, which are responsible for the production of half the oxygen humans breathe! By absorbing and storing excess CO2, the high seas are helping to slow the impacts of climate change on land. Many people know that trees produce oxygen; it's time for wider recognition of how critical the ocean is to supporting life.
Reason #4: 90% of world trade crosses our oceans
Collisions between ships and marine mammals, particularly whales, occur regularly and are a threat to the animals worldwide. And the potential effects of ocean noise on those mammals' communication is still being studied.
Reason #5: 90% of global fish stocks are at risk
According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, 90 percent of global fish stocks are either depleted or fully exploited. While much of this fishing takes place on the high seas, marine protected areas could help make fishing more sustainable.
Concluding, we all need to reconsider the value of the high seas and work towards its sustainability. Namely, last December, UN General Assembly initiated action by launching negotiations for a new international treaty to protect biodiversity on the high sea. This September, UN delegates will meet again in New York to discuss the issues further.
The Pew Charitable Trusts has previously highlighted the importance of that treaty, as ‘it would be the first of its kind, extending beyond MARPOL's regulation of marine pollution and UNCLOS’ demarcations of sovereignty’. The treaty would also pave the way for the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and fully protected marine reserves on the high seas, which would protect key areas of biodiversity from extractive and damaging activities.