18 August 2013
Source: Los Angeles Times
Authors: Richard Branson and James Cameron
We share a deep and abiding passion for and fascination with the ocean that has led us since childhood to wander the world under the waves. We also share an increasing concern that the health of the ocean is rapidly deteriorating under the strain of human pressure and neglect. The evidence is everywhere, from plastic waste at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean to flattened remains of deep ocean reefs hundreds of miles from land, bulldozed by bottom trawlers. No part of the ocean, no matter how deep or remote, is safe anymore.
At particular risk are international waters that lie beyond the jurisdiction of any country, known as the high seas. This vast realm constitutes two-thirds of the oceans and covers nearly half the planet's surface, and harbors the largest remaining reservoir of unexplored biodiversity left on Earth. Yet these waters face escalating pressure from overfishing, deep seabed mining, ocean acidification, chemical and noise pollution, huge gyres of plastic waste, dead zones, ship traffic and destructive fishing tactics such as bottom trawling.
Like most commons, the high seas are poorly regulated. Environmental controls on mining, fishing, pollution and shipping are inconsistent, weak or altogether absent. There are no uniform requirements to assess and manage industrial activities, no mandate for modern, ecosystem-based management, and no mechanisms to create marine refuges where sea life can live undisturbed.