By Robin Gomes
The oceans are a gift entrusted to us for our benefit through the sustainable use of their resources, failing which we can neither achieve sustainability, conserve our oceans nor have sustained economic benefits from them.
The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New Your, Archbishop Bernadito Auza made the point in an address during the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) on Thursday in Kingston, Jamaica.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) established the ISA in 1994.
The Holy See expressed appreciation for the efforts of the convention in protecting the oceans and the sustainable use of its resources.
However, Archbishop Auza noted that despite the efforts of the past 25 years, scientific evidence indicates that the state of our oceans has continued to decline.
To help turn the tide, the Filipino Archbishop proposed three ways of looking at the problem. Firstly, he said, one must remember the Earth together with its oceans is a gift entrusted to us for our enjoyment and stewardship. This common heritage of mankind calls for care and responsibility, not exploitation and mere use
“An approach focused on ensuring economic rights and benefits without fully imposing the related obligations,” he warned, “will ensure neither sustainability nor conservation of our oceans and marine resources nor, consequently, sustained economic benefit.”
Secondly, the Holy See official underscored the importance of achieving a balanced approach to both economic benefits we derive from our ocean resources and the conservation and sustainability of our oceans. The quest for economic benefits, he said, should not relegate obligations to safeguard the health of the oceans to secondary importance.
“Greater harmony between scientific data and business activities in the ocean,” he said, “is imperative to achieve a balanced approach.”
In this regard, the Holy See commended the efforts of various bodies in improving the assessment of biodiversity and the mapping of the ocean seafloor, which are necessary for good decision-making and good regulations.
Conflict of interest
Lastly, with the emergence of the Blue Economy, that aims at the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem, Archbishop Auza said there could be issues of conflicts of interest among states and other related bodies.
“The challenge to decision-makers and regulators,” he said, “is to achieve harmony between sustainability of the oceans and marine resources, economic profitability and compliance to regulations, and, where conflicts of interest arise, to ensure that they are resolved fairly and equitably.”