San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-President Figueres to co-chair new panel for ocean governance

LONDON – Former Costa Rican President José María Figueres joined other senior politicians on Monday to launch an independent panel that will work towards better management of the world’s oceans, which are facing unprecedented overfishing, pollution and habitat loss.

The Global Ocean Commission is spearheaded by Figueres along with former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and South African Cabinet Minister Trevor Manuel.

The initiative is a collaboration between the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group, Oxford University’s Somerville College, the Dutch environmental awareness group Adessium Foundation, and Oceans 5, a collaboration of philanthropists concerned about the health of the seas.

The goal is to place the spotlight on threats to oceans and seas that are outside national jurisdictions. These are regulated by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), a loosely woven treaty that is now 30 years old. Critics say the treaty has become ineffective due to globalized economies and technological advances.

The commission will publish recommendations for overhauling ocean governance early next year, when the U.N. General Assembly launches talks on protecting marine biodiversity.

“The world urgently needs to find better ways of managing the oceans, to stop abuse of its precious resources and ensure its protection for present and future generations,” Figueres said.

“The global ocean is essential to the health and well being of each and every one of us. It provides about half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs about a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions. But we are failing to manage it in ways that reflect its true value,” he added.

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