On Earth Day April 22, 2018, Earth Law Center (ELC) unveiled the first ever Ocean Rights Framework during the ocean conference at EarthX - the largest Earth Day gathering in the world. The framework is currently endorsed Mission Blue.
The ocean produces half of the world’s oxygen, absorbs and sequesters one-third of the carbon dioxide human activities emit, and provides protection from extreme weather events. Furthermore, 20% of the human population depends on the ocean as their primary source of protein, and over 7% rely on the ocean for jobs and income.
The EARTHxOcean Conference: No Blue, No Green! was an event designed to increase awareness of the important roles oceans play in our daily lives and to stimulate greater corporate and government support towards ocean protection. Sponsored by Mission Blue and EARTHx, the conference contained a breakout session on “Ocean Rights: The Next Evolution in Ocean Protection” which focused on the need to transform values and create solutions that keep pace with threats.
After eight months of research, writing, and gathering global expert input, ELC revealed the completed Earth Law Framework for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The framework will serve as a guideline for how nations can evolve the solution and use of marine protected areas to legally implement the rights of the ocean.
“I applaud the launch of the Earth Law Framework for MPAs and am hopeful that we will all come together to work toward its implementation as a framework and living document on oceans’ rights,” said Barbara J. Lausche, environmental lawyer and Director at MOTE Marine laboratory and Aquarium’s Marine Policy Institute, having helped develop previous international frameworks for protected areas.
An essential part- and difference- between the Earth Law structure for governance and those currently in use, is the requirement that law recognizes the ocean as entity subject of rights. These rights include the right to life and biodiversity, to be free of pollution and contamination, the right to maintain the functionality of the water cycle, and the right to full and prompt restoration from the impacts of human activity.
“This is a game changer,” says Michelle Bender, creator of the framework. “Recognizing the ocean is our life-giving partner, rather than a resource and property, will level the playing field. It will give the ocean the protection it needs for its own benefit, and ours.”
This initiative supports several other ocean initiatives launched by Earth Law Center which seek rights for The Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary in Uruguay and the Puget Sound in Washington State (US).