This past month, leaders from 14 nations came together via video conference and made a pact to protect the ocean. This agreement offered a renewed sense of hope that moving forward – decisions grounded in science may overtake political power plays. The 14 leaders conceded to sustainably regulate 100% of the ocean under their jurisdictions by 2025 – an area of the ocean approximately the size of Africa. This plan in place will help end overfishing, illegal fishing, halt the flow of plastic waste, and clean up “dead zones” that were created from farm waste.
The nations that chose to be a part of this agreement were not any of the powerhouse players like Russia, China, France, and the United States. The idea was to gather countries with like-minded values and with the ocean deeply embedded in their culture to facilitate discussions and bring about actual change. The 14 nations included were Australia, Canada, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Portugal, and the island nations of Fiji, Jamaica, and Palau. These nations represent 40% of the world’s coastlines, 30% of the offshore exclusive economic zones, and 20% of the world’s fisheries. The 14 nations are actively inviting other countries to join the movement.
This effort will not only protect the ocean – the ocean will be utilized to become a part of the global solution. It has always seemed as though there was a choice between protecting the ocean or using it all up. However, that is not the case. Protecting the health of the ocean ecosystem will allow future generations to continue enjoying the ocean without causing further deterioration. A new report stated that for every $1 invested in a sustainable ocean there would be a return of $5 in economic, social, and environmental benefits.
Steps have already been taken towards a sustainable ocean. In Ghana, for example, new technology is allowing the country to track foreign fishing vessels and crack down on illegal fishing. In Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia they are deploying catchment systems on major rivers to capture plastic waste before it goes into the ocean.
The overall goal of this agreement is not to just protect a small fraction of the ocean, but to ambitiously undertake the goal of protecting 100% of it. We are past the point of taking small steps to protect our world and must undergo radical change in order to continue reaping its benefits. 14 nations out of 192 may not seem like a lot but it is important to consider that Japan, a powerful influence in the Asian Pacific, signed the deal and may pave the path for other nations to come onboard as well. Either way, it sparks a sense of hope for the future.