By Julia Warrander and Russell Waite, of Affinity Private Wealth
THERE are few remaining frontiers on our planet. Of those which do remain, however, perhaps the wildest and least understood are the world’s oceans.
They cover about two thirds of the Earth’s surface and play an essential role in maintaining the economic and physical wellbeing of humankind. From shipping and fishing to tourism, it is estimated that this vast ecosystem provides an income for every tenth living person.
Moreover, fish and seafood are the main source of protein for 40% of the global population, and more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe originates from small marine plants. This does not just benefit humankind. Indeed, 80% of all life forms live in salty water. The high seas are some of the most biologically productive in the world, teeming with plankton and home to ocean giants such as predatory fish, whales, and sharks.
Why are the high seas in the news?
The high seas are defined by international law as all parts of the ocean that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, the territorial sea or the internal waters of a sovereign nation.
This essentially means that the high seas – and associated resources – are not directly owned, or regulated, by any country. As a consequence, loosely enforced and fragmented rules have resulted in a vast portion of the planet, hundreds of miles from land, being essentially lawless. This has led to overfishing, illegal dumping and other environmental abuses created by the threat of deep-sea mining and, more recently, bioprospecting of marine species.
Against this backdrop – and to a loud fanfare – UN member states have recently agreed on a treaty to protect the high seas. After almost 20 years of talks, the agreement will provide a legal framework for establishing vast marine-protected areas, guarding against the loss of wildlife and sharing the genetic resources of the high seas, with the latter attracting increasing scientific and commercial attention owing to their potential use in medicines and cosmetics.
Aligning with the UN’s cause
Human demands on the oceans are increasing at such a rate that they may well lead to unpredictable consequences from climate-related distress to events leading to economic or ecological collapse.
While this landmark announcement by the UN is noteworthy progress towards helping to avert these risks, the size and scope of the challenge remains significant. The private sector has an important role to play, and Affinity’s trust business is proud to announce a partnership with Blue Marine Foundation, the internationally renowned charity dedicated to restoring the ocean to health by addressing overfishing, one of the biggest environmental problems we face.
Blue Marine’s work combines a focus on top-down issues to improve the governance of marine resources, alongside bottom-up project delivery to assist local communities which are at the front line of ocean conservation.
Developing models of sustainable fishing, restoring habitats and securing marine-protected areas are core strategic goals for the team at Blue Marine. At the same time, they purposely work on connecting people with the sea and enhancing ocean understanding across generations.
More on this exciting partnership will come in the coming months which, for 2023, will focus on promoting the marine environment through an overarching project campaign including local seafood initiatives and supporting local fisher-led scallop research inside and outside existing Marine Protected Areas.