Ocean pollution and int’l cooperation (37)
By Choi Yearn-hong
The sea is one, but nations want to divide and conquer it. The ocean does not acknowledge national boundary lines, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) or other political demarcations. As a matter of fact, the sea ridicules and denies the existence of things people make.
Nations want to remake and expand their own ocean territories – because they contain living and mineral resources – by inventing EEZs in and under the sea. But fish freely migrate, so do tsunamis, because they enjoy the freedom of the currents and waves.
Nations do not always agree with each other over every coastline, sovereign control of waters, EEZs and where continental shelves begin and end.
Nations invest millions of dollars to exploit ocean resources and securing military power on the sea, to study sea beds in order to justify their claims over a continental shelf.
We cannot divide the sea and draw lines on the water. Water evaporates, producing clouds and rain for the living things on land.
The ocean appears to ridicule the wisdom of humankind in the 21st century. Nature or the Big Bang made the sea the source of life on Earth, but nations do not appreciate the value of life.
People and nations pollute seas and oceans with more and more oil and waste using ever more advanced science and technology.
To draw a line even demarcating the surface of land is unnecessary and furthermore, drawing a line marking territory beneath the ground is ridiculous.
The Sea, one sea, is and must be the common blue space for the hope of mankind, but it is polluted and destroyed by nationalism, greed, overfishing, tensions, wars and military confrontations, even after two World Wars and the Cold War that lasted for half a century.
How ridiculous we are!
How pathetic the nations are!
Desertification of the Sea
The scientific journal, Marine Policy, laments fishing operations that have in recent decades targeted unregulated high seas after stocks near shorelines were overfished. Elliott Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Institute and the paper’s lead author, described the open ocean as “more akin to a watery desert.”
The world has turned to deep-sea fishing “out of desperation” without realizing fish stocks there take much longer to recover. Deep-sea mining and fishing are depleting life in the sea, so much so, that scientists are calling for end to deep-sea mining and fishing.
Unfortunately, protection of continental shelves and EEZs for the common heritage of humankind has not been fully discussed, even though there has been marginal discussion about them in intellectual societies.
Nations do not formulate and implement sea and ocean policies for nature conservation and environmental protection. Nations that share the sea, especially narrow seas, have not been seeking peaceful and rational boundary delimitations. China is emerging as a new imperialistic nation in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea.
China is trying to use continental shelf theory from the North Sea decision to claim the vast territory of the East China Sea and the South China Sea with its history of ancient Chinese civilization over neighboring nations. China threatens neighboring nations with more fleets and rising military budgets.
Conserving marine resources
Attempts to share the sea with neighboring nations are not done nor expressed among the nations. Sharing the resources and responsibility of protecting the sea and conserving marine resources should be the guiding principle of international sea policies. This will eventually bring peace on the oceans.
Limiting and dismantling continental shelf demarcations and EEZs must be the mission of intellectual society. It should be our mission to protect the oceans and the seas and conserve marine resources for humankind.
More articles in newspapers and journals should be able to discuss environmental protection in oceans as well as the conservation of resources. The Korea Institute of Public Administration and The Korea Times are jointly exploring this space.
As far as we know, the Earth is only one planet in the universe with oceans and life. Exploitation and exploration of these resources without a sense of responsibility should not be tolerated.
Exploitation is wrong according to the values of the EEZs, and therefore should be banned from them. Wars of mass destruction should be banned totally from the sea, because they destroy life in seas and oceans.
Nuclear ships or nuclear submarines should be ousted from the seas. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas started with a legitimate conception of EEZs, but this has been misused or discussed about for bad purposes.
We should go back to the protection of fisheries and natural resources spanning from shorelines to the high seas. This sounds like Utopian thinking, but it needs to happen. Our oceans, the last frontier on Earth, should be protected.
Protection of migratory species
Protection of migratory species and sharks, fish farming, oil spills and the restoration of environmental quality should be constantly sought. Civil and criminal charges against off-shore oil production companies in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 should bring justice to the seas.
One interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Laura Bush, a former first lady of the United States, readable for advocating protection of the ocean and marine resources is a reminder of her husbands designation of four marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean – ocean national parks in 2006.
The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument,
The Marianas Trench National Monument,
The Pacific Remote Islands and
The Rose Atoll in American Samoa.
These four monuments cover more than 330,000 square miles and amount to the largest fully protected marine area in the world, larger than the entirety of United States national parks and wild life refuges combined. They support vast numbers of fish, breathtakingly beautiful coral habitats, and a remarkable abundance of sharks-often seen as markers of an ecosystem’s health.
Protection of oceans is a mission and task for humankind for present and future generations to come. Nearly half of the world’s population now lives within 60 miles of an ocean, and that percentage is set to rise as more people settle in coastal communities.
Our wild ocean frontiers are disappearing and, as was done to Yellowstone, it is up to us to conserve the most important wild areas that remain. Doing so will preserve something that is too easy to destroy but impossible to replace: natural, undisturbed incubators of life. Overfishing and degradation of our ocean waters damages the habitats needed to sustain diverse marine populations.
The past decade has set the stage for cautious optimism about the future. Diverse forums and programs, both governmental and non-governmental, have been launched and are being activated to support environmental cooperation across the Asian region.
The ramifications of environmental politics are bound to have a larger impact in the coming decade as environmental issues become more affected by economic development strategies and production techniques. A cooperative regime on a regional basis with a win-win strategy for all participating nations is all the more necessary, not only for effective management but also for more stable regional relations in general.
All nations should develop successful strategies for socially-just and ecologically sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as others.
Existing international organizations have not been totally effective in improving environmental protection on a global scale. The UNEP has been hindered by its limited mandate, lack of resources, and physical location. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has sponsored intergovernmental meetings of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP), a regional seas program.
The UN Commission on Sustainable Development has too broad a mandate and no enforcement powers. Environmentally sustainable development is now considered to be one of the World Bank's fundamental objectives, but it has never been intended to be the focal point of international environmental governance. There is a school of thought that regional environmental cooperation might be a better solution to international environmental issues.
The Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP) was adopted in September 1994 as a part of the Regional Seas Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Implementation of NOWPAP contributes to the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) in the Northwest Pacific region.
The Northwest Pacific region features coastal and island eco-systems that sustain spectacular marine life as well as important commercial fishing territories. The region is also one of the most densely populated parts of the world, resulting in enormous pressures and demands being put on the environment.
The overall goal of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan is “the wise use, development and management of the coastal and marine environment so as to obtain the utmost long-term benefits for the human populations of the region, while protecting human health, ecological integrity and the region’s sustainability for future generations.”
The geographical scope of NOWPAP covers the marine environment and coastal zones from about 121 degree E to 143 degree E longitude, and from approximately 33 degree N to 52 degree N latitude.
There should be a regional regulator’s authority to make environmental regulations and enforce them with domestic environment agencies.
Environmental management is basically regulating polluters. The regional environmental management is to regulate polluting nations. Therefore, regional regulatory authority should get maximum cooperation from each nation’s regulatory authority. Then, who should play the regional regulator’s role? The board of directors can and should be able to demonstrate the regulator's authority. This should be a major task to produce successful regional environmental programs. The East Asian and Pacific region had an average annual GDP growth rate of 7.6 percent in the 1980s and of 10.3 per cent in 1990s. Asia’s economic development has been achieved at a great expense to the environment. China is a good example of rapid economic growth. For example, China’s SO2 production was over 20,000,000 metric tons in 2000 – 80 percent of the region’s total production. China is the fast-rising, second-ranking contributor to the United States and is likely to surpass the United States in the coming decades.
China’s rivers, reservoirs, and other water resources are largely fouled causing deterioration in the Yellow Sea and other oceans. Its solid and hazardous wastes are often dumped untreated.
Serious deforestation and overuse of other natural resources have fueled economic growth, but have also diminished biodiversity and endangered many forms of wildlife.
No nation or the UN can regulate a superpower nation such as China, which is reluctant to admit that it is a major environmental polluter in the region, or to commit major funding to environmental programs, even though it is just beginning to recognize the seriousness of the problem.
There should be an effective regional environmental tribunal to enforce international or regional environmental laws and regulations. Regulatory authority makes regional regulations, and the court declares the nation or nations are guilty or not.
Environmental crimes are not considered as serious crimes at the present time, but will be in the future.
If environmental regulation is the bedrock of environmental affairs and sustainable development many of the new policy opportunities – and the urgent policy imperatives – involve going beyond compliance in a dynamic of continuous improvement leading to superior environmental performance. It is only with such superior performance that the effects of rapid pollution and waste intensity of economic activity will be drastically reduced.
Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place from 1973 through 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced four 1958 treaties. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th state to sign the treaty. To date, 162 countries and the European Community have joined in the Convention. However, it is uncertain as to what extent the Convention codifies customary international law.
While the Secretary General of the United Nations receives instruments of ratification and accession and the UN provides support for meetings of states party to the Convention, the UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention. There is, however, a role played by organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority (the latter being established by the UN Convention).
Choi Yearn-hong, who got his Ph.D, from Indiana University in 1974, has written academic articles in the Environmental Management, Environmental Conservation, Journal of Environmental Education, Journal of Environmental Sciences, Nuclear Plant Safety, Environmental Engineering, Water Environment and Technology, World Affairs, and Asian Thought and Society, World Literature Today (University of Oklahoma) among others. His op-ed articles have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Japan Times, Virginian Pilot, Indianapolis Star, and The Korea Times among other dailies.