High hopes for the high seas

Lend your support to IUCN’s Goodwill Ambassador, singer-songwriter Alison Sudol who is campaigning to raise funds for IUCN’s work on saving the high seas.

Trawler, Hobart harbour, Australia

The high seas — the nearly 50% of the planet outside the jurisdiction of individual countries — need our help. They belong to us all, yet are currently being exploited for the benefit of a very few. We need to unite to make sure that they are managed under rules that protect ocean life and are fair for us all.

The high seas are worth saving for many reasons. They contain a treasure trove of marine life – perhaps the largest reservoir of undisturbed biodiversity left on earth – yet face growing pressure from overfishing, seabed mining, ocean warming and acidification, chemical and noise pollution, plastic waste, ship traffic, and destructive practices like bottom trawling.

Large powerful fish that spend most of their time on the high seas like sharks, marlin and tuna, are disappearing. Their population size has shrunk by up to 90% in recent years. Meanwhile, we are filling the ocean with plastics and pollution from both land and sea. In some places the amount of waste outweighs fish by six pounds to one, suffocating and weakening anything that consumes it.

We need a healthy ocean to support life on earth. Phytoplankton - tiny marine plants, produce nearly 50% of the oxygen we breathe. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide and shapes the weather – without it we would already be experiencing runaway climate change.

“The good news is that governments are aware of the problem and are considering ways forward. Last year at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) world leaders agreed on the need for urgent action, but the action has been slow in coming,” says Kristina Gjerde, IUCN’s High Seas Policy Advisor. “They pledged to decide by December 2014 whether or not to adopt new improved rules to protect high seas biodiversity. Our global ocean commons deserve more.”

IUCN and the High Seas Alliance, a partnership of organizations and groups aimed at building a strong common voice and constituency for the conservation of the high seas, are calling on governments to act now and support a new treaty to protect the high seas. The treaty will provide international rules that safeguard marine wildlife and ensure that all those who use the high seas for business play fairly and don’t cause harm.

Last week at the United Nations, governments have been debating how to proceed.

“It looks like they will agree to start discussing what a possible new treaty might contain and what it might do,” adds Gjerde. But it is clear that without a massive wave of public support, they will not step up to the challenge of adopting the strong and clear rules we need to protect the high seas for now and for the future.”

Join Alison’s #STARTARYOT campaign and help raise funds for the high seas and IUCN’s conservation work around the world.

Work area: 
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
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