The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 19 September 2023. Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence and Founder of Mission Blue, speaking at The Ocean Race Summit at the United Nations HQ in New York. © Cherie Bridges / The Ocean Race
Leading ocean voices call on the UN to support ocean rights
Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh, eminent oceanographer Sylvia Earle and Avatar actress Bailey Bass were among the leading voices calling for the ocean's rights to be recognised at The Ocean Race Summit in New York, held on Monday during the UN General Assembly. Volvo Cars, a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race, used the event to announce that they are joining conservation group WWF's moratorium on deep sea mining
The Ocean Race Summit held on Monday at the UN headquarters during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) in New York, gathered heads of state, ministers, ocean advocates, indigenous voices, elite athletes, business leaders, youth and Hollywood actors to call for the ocean’s rights to be legally recognised.
Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence and Founder of Mission Blue, spoke about the decline of the ocean and the urgent shift that is required in how it is treated: “We need to think about the rights of other creatures, of other systems, of the ocean, as if our life depended on it.”
UNEP Patron of the Ocean and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh, who finished an over 300-mile swim of the Hudson River days earlier, shared a similar viewpoint with the audience of 300 people that attended the event at the United Nations headquarters: “This has always been an issue of justice. Justice between ourselves and future generations. But also justice between ourselves and the animal kingdom. Very few things are impossible to achieve if you flip the script.”
Strong backing for a global approach to protecting the ocean was also voiced by Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, who implored: “Keep raising the awareness, keep fighting for ocean rights.” While actor Bailey Bass, who starred as a free diver, in Avatar: The Way of Water said: “We only have one planet. We want change and the time is now. This movement is not about one person, one voice, one movement, it is about one planet.”
Charlie Enright, skipper of 11th Hour Racing Team, the winners of The Ocean Race 2022-23, spoke about the importance of the role of sailors in speaking up for the ocean: “I think everybody who spends time on the water feels a deep responsibility to be an advocate for the ocean. We are privileged to spend time on the water, and part of our mission is to explain to people that aren't that privileged just how important their actions are to the health of the oceans and just how their everyday life is affected by the ocean.”
During the Summit, the 20th in the series of events held by The Ocean Race across five continents to explore the concept of recognising the ocean’s rights, Ulrika Modeer, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy (BERA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) highlighted that political momentum on ocean issues is continuing to build on the back of last year’s Oceans Conference and the High Seas Treaty, but added: “There is still so much more to do. We need to extend the scale of marine protected areas to make agreements a reality. We need to improve the management of large-scale fisheries. We must mitigate destructive land-based practices of pollution, over extraction, and habitat destruction that impact our coasts and oceans’ health. And we need to make sure that policymakers can draw on every community’s aspirations and knowledge as we work to restore the relationship between people, water and the oceans of our planet.”
The Ocean Race Summit New York also featured business leaders, reflecting the need for urgent action from the sector to recognise the ocean’s rights. Volvo Cars, a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race, announced that the company is joining the World Wildlife Fund’s call for a Moratorium on Deep Sea Mining. Stuart Templar, Head of Stakeholder Engagement at Volvo Cars said: “In doing so, we commit to not source minerals from the deep seabed and exclude such minerals from our supply chains until it can be clearly demonstrated that these mining activities can be managed in a way that ensures the effective protection of the maritime environment.” He added: “The race has already inspired us to protect our oceans. Volvo Cars fully endorses the Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights. We need to lead by example.”
Grethel Aguilar, Acting Director General of the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “A Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights is about respect and also about responsibility and obligations. IUCN will continue to support all efforts to shape ocean rights and to establish clear responsibilities.”
The Ocean Race Summit - Presenting Ocean Rights, organised in close collaboration with UNDP, the IUCN, Earth Law Center, the Government of Cabo Verde and 11th Hour Racing, culminates several years of work to develop principles for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights.
Working towards a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights is part of The Ocean Race’s multi-award winning ‘Racing with Purpose’ sustainability programme developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race.