ELC Launches UN Initiative to Ensure Recognition and Protection of the Ocean's Inherent Rights

Earth Law Center's new Ocean Rights Manager, Michelle Bender, has formed an ambitious program to ensure the inherent rights of the ocean are recognized and protected.

The ocean covers over seventy percent of our planet, generates over fifty percent of the oxygen, regulates climate and provides food and jobs for millions of people. Over-fishing, pollution and habitat destruction has led to a global decline in marine biodiversity of 49%, roughly half of what it was 50 years ago. With climate change expected to exacerbate the decline of marine ecosystem health, the time is now to ensure we protect this vital part of our planet, and the source of life.

There are numerous laws at the local, national and international levels designed to protect and conserve the health of ocean life and ecosystems. However, a primary impediment to achieving a healthy ocean is not only implementation of laws and regulations, but the lack of a coherent and shared vision of what a healthy ocean looks like, and what our associated relationship with it should be. This vision must reflect the oceans inherent rights to health for its own sake, and must be grounded in values of connection, stewardship and respect for the ocean’s well-being, rather than primarily from the context of the ocean’s utility to humans.

"Adopting the inherent rights of the ocean in law and policy will encourage a more holistic approach to ocean governance and provide the framework needed to ensure a healthy and thriving ocean. We can no longer treat the ocean as an infinite resource and as separate from land and humans. Our health and future depends on that of the ocean." Michelle Bender

To demonstrate how nature’s rights can be implemented in practice, ELC is promoting legal frameworks that adopt a holistic definition of ocean health and favor the ocean and biodiversity in order to restore and protect marine ecosystems.

Beginning with the UN Ocean Conference.

The Conference is to be held at the United Nations Headquarters June 5-9 to identify and discuss the means to support implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The Conference will "adopt by consensus a concise, focused, intergovernmentally agreed declaration in the form of a 'Call for Action' to support the implementation of Goal 14."

ELC has created an initiative to present to the UN Ocean Conference and to be attached to a subsequent voluntary commitment to support SDG 14. This initiative requests UN Ocean Conference members support the incorporation of the inherent rights of the ocean into the "Call for Action." To sign on in support, please email name, organization/affiliation, location and logo to mbender@earthlaw.org

For more on the Ocean Rights Program.
For more on the conference here.