Stephen Eades – Can only lunatics see the truth? – Sep 15

I have been prompted to write this blog by two events which happened very recently. Both separated by time and place, but both intimately connected.

The first was an article earlier this summer in the journal PLOS ONE which reported on a peer-reviewed study which shows that worldwide seabird populations have fallen by 70% over the last 60 years.

We also now know that 9 out of 10 seabirds have plastic in their gut as a result of eating waste plastic, having mistaken it for food. As for food, we know also as the UN has reported that 80% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited and 28% of those stocks over-exploited. This means that seabird populations are on the one hand harassed by pollution and on the other confronted by hunger. Given this reality, should their grave decline surprise us?

Yet, do we understand or appreciate the problem we have created? Do we feel any guilt?

The second event was a seminar in Bristol, composed of marine scientists and lawyers, and convened to consider whether marine reserves are actually giving us the outcome that their purpose is meant to deliver.

We know that the marine ecosystem is under severe stress worldwide. We know that genuine marine reserves — ones that are designed to protect the integrity of the whole ecosystem within their boundary — can address that stress, and provide the remedy that’s required. So we know that marine reserves, if applied in a comprehensive way, can restore sustainability to human use of the sea and oceans.

That logic is clear.

Yet marine reserves as they are being created currently — in a form that does not protect the integrity of the whole ecosystem within the reserve’s boundaries, but only certain features, and then only imperfectly because there is no proper management or enforcement — are failing.

Yet, do we recognise the shortcomings of this second-rate model of marine reserves which government is currently offering?

The answer is, no. This is why Marinet has proposed a reform of the UN Law of the Sea (the legal framework for all marine management and use) which places the real version of the marine reserve principle — protection of the integrity of the ecosystem as a whole — as the guiding principle at the heart of marine law.

This means that all uses of the sea and ocean need to be licensed, and no particular use can occur unless it can demonstrate respect for the integrity of the marine world. This means that a revenue stream is provided by these licences to fund a strong administration and enforcement system worldwide. This means we have designed and delivered a management system where the integrity of the marine world and its ecosystems are respected and restored, and seabird populations and fish stocks returned to health.

This means that the fundamental principle governing the UN Law of the Sea is absolutely clear. All the oceans are effectively, in principle and practice, a single marine reserve.

How did the lawyers and scientists at the seminar in Bristol respond to this idea and its vision of restoration and hope?

They laughed, and dismissed it with scorn.

In what world are these people, with all their erudition and eminence, living? Can they not read the news stories or the evidence on their televisions and computer screens?

They dismiss Marinet’s proposal as lunatic.

But you tell me, who has seen the truth?


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