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Nation pleads with the UN to grant rights to the ocean: 'Our future depends upon it'

"This initiative aims to empower the ocean with a voice."

“This initiative aims to empower the ocean with a voice."

Photo Credit: iStock

Despite a common misconception suggesting otherwise, the ocean is teeming with sound from its creatures. 

This September, three entities brought a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly aimed at amplifying that collective voice.

The Ocean Race sailors, the government of Cabo Verde, and the Earth Law Center called on the U.N. to grant legal rights to our biggest bodies of water by 2030, per the official website of the race, citing the urgent need to protect the ocean from pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, and the effects of changing global temperatures. 

"This initiative aims to empower the ocean with a voice in decisions that affect her, strengthening human and economic rights and laying an ethical foundation for a sustainable future," Ulisses Correia e Silva, the prime minister of the African island country Cabo Verde, said in his speech to the assembly. 

The negative impact of human activity on our oceans has been well-documented, with marine animals suffocating, drowning, or even starving after encounters with plastic waste.  

According to the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.N. estimated the amount of plastic trash making its way into our oceans annually is equivalent to a "garbage truck load's worth every minute."

Michelle Bender, a legal consultant for Earth Law Center, told the general assembly that "humankind has a responsibility to steward the ocean in a manner consistent with our interconnected relationship. " 

Plastic waste has also contributed to decreasing biodiversity, which the EPA notes can negatively affect food supply — seafood is relied upon by more than three billion people worldwide as part of their regular diet. 

"We can, and we must, reset our relationship with the ocean and recognize the rights of the ocean. Our future depends upon it," The Ocean Race chairman Richard Brisius added

The full proposal, on The Ocean Race's website, also emphasizes the socioeconomic benefits of passing regulations to help our oceans thrive, noting that millions of people depend on the waters for their livelihoods. 

World Sailing, the governing body for the sport, supported the call to action in a statement on its official website

"Sailors and the sport of sailing are uniquely positioned to witness the changes in our oceans," Alexandra Rickham, the body's head of sustainability said in a statement on the website. "These changes impact every aspect of life on this planet, and it is our duty to do all we can to protect all of our oceans and seas."

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