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Global Ocean Commission Seeks Views on Reversing Ocean Degradation

09 September 2013

GLOBAL - The Global Ocean Commission – an independent commission aimed at tackling issues facing the high seas - is seeking views on how to reverse degradation of the ocean and restore it to full, sustainable productivity.

The Commission is launching an online survey that aims to gather expertise from every sector of society and every part of the world. Responses will help write its roadmap for ocean restoration, due for publication early next year.

José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, co-chairs the Global Ocean Commission with Trevor Manuel, South African Minister in the Presidency, and David Miliband, former UK Foreign Secretary and incoming President of the International Rescue Committee.

José María Figueres said: "There is abundant evidence showing that the global ocean is trouble. Loss of important biodiversity, decline in fisheries yields, the impacts of climate change – it’s all well documented. What we need now are ideas for putting it right – and we’re urging people to complete our survey and share their thoughts on how we can right the ocean wrongs."

Trevor Manuel also commented: "The demand for ocean resources has grown markedly over the last few decades, and technology has developed in order to meet that demand, leading to over-exploitation. It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s everybody’s reality; we have to find a way back, and we have to do it urgently. We need the best of human ingenuity to show us the path, and we need others to join us in sounding the alarm and creating pressure for reform."

The Commission’s focus is on the high seas, the internationally governed ocean beyond the jurisdiction of individual governments, which covers nearly half of the planet’s surface.

Two thirds of commercial high seas fish stocks are over-exploited and/or depleted – a higher proportion than in coastal waters. Human rights abuses persist on illegal fishing vessels, and concerns over equity surround emerging ocean uses such as bioprospecting.

Lack of monitoring, lack of policing and the complex structure of governance have all been cited as reasons for the high seas’ rapid decline.

David Miliband said: "One of the issues we have to look at is the way the high seas are managed and governed. Different bodies regulate different activities, such as seabed mining, fishing and shipping; fishing is regulated by regional organisations concentrating on relatively few species.

"One of the things we’re asking in our survey is whether people believe modifying the edges of this system can bring the changes humanity needs, or whether the Commission should be pushing for more profound reform."

Following its second formal meeting in July, the Commission called for the mandatory use of International Maritime Organization numbers and tracking equipment by all vessels on the high seas, as a way to improve national security, human rights and fisheries management.

The Commission’s next meeting will take place in Oxford, UK, in late November.

To take part in the consultation, visit

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