To Protect the Ocean Shift Focus Over to Local Area

In a world where we are often uninspired by the results of global conventions, we recently achieved two remarkable milestones in a brief episode.

In December, nearly 200 countries in Montreal agreed on a framework to contain and reverse biodiversity loss, which included a widely visible “30×30” goal to protect 30% of land and water by 2030. Three months, nearly 200 countries signed the high Seas Treaty, a historic agreement that introduced the possibility of new protections for parts of the ocean that lie outside national borders.

These two moments are milestones that provide the necessary teeth to enforce the protection of our oceans — a source of life on our planet, a source of food for families around the world and a powerful nature-based tool to contain and adapt to climate change.

Although the protection of the high seas is essential to achieve the 30 ×30 biodiversity goals, we must also prioritize the areas that have the greatest value for nature and humans. This includes a substantial but thin marine strip known as the territorial seas within the meaning of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Extending 12 nautical miles from the coast, these water contain 70 percent of the total biodiversity of the oceans.

According to the United Nations, nearly 2.4 people live within 100 kilometers of the coast. Almost a fifth of them depend on artisanal fishing, the vast majority of which is coastal fishing, essential for subsistence. All the mangroves and seagrass beds in the world and 83% of the coral reefs are found in these water. Forty percent of the total world fishing comes from small-scale fishing. Simply put, these water are essential for the food security, livelihoods and climate resilience of communities around the world.

Given this incredible and unique symbiosis between marine biodiversity, productivity, ecosystem services, livelihoods and society, we propose to call these water more precisely a “community sea”.”

Despite the value that far exceeds their size, these bodies of water are often neglected and poorly managed. They contain only 11% of marine protected areas (MPas) and less than 15% of ocean philanthropy is devoted to community conservation of coastal habitats and small-scale fishing problems, based on an estimate by CEA Consulting.

This is partly due to social and political obstacles as diverse as the countless communities and cultures that border these seas. The rules relating to access rights and duration determine the bandwidth. The human rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs), such as the right to social and economic development or cultural rights, must be respected. There is simply no one-size-fits-all solution.

Nevertheless, protection and management measures are necessary and, when implemented well, they have been shown to have measurable benefits for humans and the planet. To protect the community’s seas, we need inclusive and effectively managed marine protected areas, as well as the recognition and support of governance models that support community-led protection in the form of other effective territorial protection measures (EMSOS).

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