Citizens of the World
August 14, 2015
Becoming a TerraMar Citizen
The TerraMar Project is on a mission to transform the way people think about the value and planetary services of the ocean and to create a global community around our shared love and interest in the sea.
We have to rethink our relationship to the natural world and the oceans. After all, we are the ones who need them in order to survive, not the other way around.
I am very excited to be collaborating with the TerraMar Project to engage and inspire people around the globe to protect what covers half the planet: the High Seas.
The Outlaw Ocean
What are the High Seas?
Mark Young, a retired United States Coast Guard commander and former chief of enforcement for the Pacific Ocean, puts it plainly:
“It’s like the Wild West. Weak rules, few sheriffs, lots of outlaws.”
Scofflaws on the High Seas
For its 42nd episode of Global Ocean TV, The TerraMar Project sat down with Ian Urbina, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, to discuss his series on lawlessness on the high seas called “The Outlaw Ocean.”
High Seas Governance
Reading Ian Urbina’s investigative reports was a real-eye opener. I knew the situation was dire, but I did not realize how dire it was.
For instance, how many ships are on the sea to serve the current world economy? The answer brings on instant vertigo:
A fleet of more than four million fishing and small cargo vessels and 100,000 large merchant ships that haul about 90 percent of the world’s goods.
How old is the legislation governing maritime navigation and practices? Ian Urbina writes: “Today’s maritime laws have hardly more teeth than they did centuries ago when history’s great empires first explored the oceans’ farthest reaches.”
Murder, mayhem and pollution are a daily occurrence, but who’s watching? Hardly anyone ! When we speak of High Seas Governance, we should add *or lack thereof*.
“Ships intentionally dump more engine oil and sludge into the oceans in the span of three years than that spilled in the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez accidents combined, ocean researchers say, and emit huge amounts of certain air pollutants, far more than all the world’s cars.”
Excuse me, can I fly your flag?
“The modern flagging system, which allows ships to buy the right to fly the flag of a country as long as it promises to follow its laws, provides good cover for the unscrupulous. Usually, a ship may be stopped on the high seas only by a law enforcement or military vessel flying the same flag.”
So, you ask, what happens when a flag is from land-locked which probably does not have a fleet?
You guessed it, probably nothing, it’s a free-for-all.
In one of his investigative reports Stowaways and Crimes abord a Scofflaw Ship, Ian Urbina speaks of a specific ship, the Dona Liberty. The ship was owned by a Greek company incorporated in Liberia, crewed primarily by Filipinos, captained by an Italian, flagged to the Bahamas and passing through international waters.
Who can keep up with that? Whose jurisdiction does this fall under? It makes investigating criminal behaviours very difficult.
Really, I am speechless.
By the way, ‘stowaways’ do not refer to luggage but to ‘passengers’ who do not appear on the manifest of the ship. You will feel sick reading about them.
On the World’s Most Wanted List
In A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes” you will read about Thunder which was banned from the Atlantic since 2006. The chase after Thunder will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Ocean Needs You
What can I do, you may ask yourself when you read these disheartening facts?
There is a lot everyone can do. Reduce your impact on the environment, for instance, walk, bike instead of driving. Learn to use and re-use, instead of use and throw away. Ban disposable plastics in your daily life. Do think twice about the plastic bags handed out in every store. If everyone brought their own bags when they shopped, it would make a world of a difference. The world economy is largely driven by our consumer’s habits. Do we need all this selection in our stores? We do not. Eat food grown locally. You live in the city? You can set up an urban garden. The possibilities are endless, but it’s start with you.
Will you take the pledge and add your voice to protect the world’s largest ecosystem ?