Portugal and the ocean economy.

Author:Vitorino, Ana Paula
 
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Today, our world is facing the challenge of understanding and living through the Anthropocene. Although this epoch is not yet officially recognized, it is increasingly accepted that we are in a special subdivision of the geological timescale, one in which human activity has a direct impact on our planet in terms of climate and the availability of natural resources.

The global competition for the exploitation of natural resources to sustain current models of development originated in the recognition of the ocean as an extension of mainland territories. If for centuries the maritime space was regarded as one of mobility--a highway to other spaces--today 'terrestrial' concepts are being applied to the ocean.

This change is connected to an increase in knowledge about the sea and its resources, as well as the technological advances that have facilitated the exploration of the ocean. The public order of the oceans, which incorporates a substantial territorial component based on a clear division between national sovereignty and jurisdiction and the freedoms of the high seas beyond current maritime borders, served the circumstances of its time well, providing the stability and legal certainty necessary for the economy of the sea to develop and prosper.

As we now know, however, by the time that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) entered into force in 1994, a number of challenges that threaten the oceans and marine resources were becoming more visible and better understood, and were in part detached from the idea of territory and sovereignty. UNCLOS provides ways to respond to environmental problems with respect to the world's oceans and allows us to incorporate those approaches into decision-making processes. It also gives us tools to manage such issues so that solutions beyond the national borders of each coastal State can be reached. The foundations laid down by the Convention, however, are not sufficient to respond to emerging global threats. Examples such as ocean acidification, marine pollution, the depletion of fish stocks and degradation of marine ecosystems are impossible to address and resolve solely from the viewpoint of national sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction. We need a holistic, shared approach to sustainably manage our oceans.

This is why Portugal is fully committed to working towards a new UNCLOS implementation agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction....

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