Opinion and Analysis
Our oceans are more than fish and ships
Posted Wednesday, June 17 2009 at 00:00
The oceans are suffering.
The main source of food for two billion people, a key element in climate control and a largely untapped reserve of vital resources, they deserve to be managed better.
This is why the United Nations this month celebrated the first ever World Ocean Day.
When the ocean makes the headlines, the news usually concerns a threat to biodiversity, a crisis in the fishing industry or an oil-spill accident.
These are important issues, but are only part of the much bigger story that needs telling.
As our understanding of the climate system improves, we realize the complex yet essential role of the ocean plays in its regulation.
Because of its capacity to store heat, the ocean is not only the engine of weather but also the memory of climate.
Life on earth originated in the margins of the primordial ocean and for millions of years evolved in this aquatic milieu.
The ocean is the ultimate global commons providing essential ecological services that make life possible on our planet.
Humankind has strong fundamental reasons to revere the ocean, as ancient civilizations intuitively did.
But our everyday behaviour falls far short from this serene ideal.
As the current piracy crisis has revealed - and despite the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - there are many gaps in the governance in this unique international space.
UNCLOS provides an integrated legal framework on which to build sound and effective regulations to the different uses of the ocean, which have been implemented by the UN specialized agencies and programs over the last 30 years.
Nevertheless, severe limitations exist for monitoring and enforcing these regulations.
National and international institutions are fundamentally weak.