HAMILTON, Bermuda--(BUSINESS WIRE)--For more than two years, the Sargasso Sea Alliance (SSA), in collaboration with the Bermuda government, has pushed to establish safeguarding measures for the Sargasso Sea, a unique two-million-square nautical mile ecosystem in the North Atlantic that is without effective legal protection, placing it at risk of long-lasting harm due to overfishing, pollution and more. Today, SSA’s effort took an unprecedented step forward as government representatives from 11 countries and territories from North America, the Caribbean and Europe committed support for the conservation of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem for the benefit of present and future generations.
During today’s historic gathering in Hamilton, Bermuda, international representatives signed the “Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea,” a significant and powerful platform for voluntary action to minimize adverse effects from shipping, overfishing, and illegal activities in the open sea region. It also establishes a Sargasso Sea Commission to provide advice and advocacy to ensure effective stewardship. The Sargasso Sea is the world’s only sea without coasts, and is a critical habitat. It has become the “canary in the coal mine” for all unguarded high seas. As a fact, the high seas cover nearly 50 percent of our planet.
Signatories include the governments of Bermuda, United States, United Kingdom, Monaco, and the Azores Islands. British Virgin Islands, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turks and Caicos Islands, and South Africa also spoke in support together with representatives from the Secretariats of five international organizations, including the Oslo and Paris Commission (OSPAR) from the neighboring Northeast Atlantic region, the International Seabed Authority, the Inter-American Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Sea Turtles, the Convention on Migratory Species and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Hamilton Declaration is available to view here: http://www.sargassoalliance.org/hamilton-declaration.
“I was first attracted to this project by the unique ecological values of the Sargasso Sea and equally intrigued by its audacity: for a relatively small amount of money, we have the opportunity to develop protection measures for nearly 2 million square miles of open ocean,” explains Richard Rockefeller, chairman of the Sargasso Sea Alliance. “This scale of action is unprecedented either on land or in the sea. This kind of leverage is available once in a philanthropist’s lifetime, if ever.”
Rockefeller also notes how the need for preservation is clear, commending comments made by John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, at the Economist World Ocean Summit on Feb. 25, 2014: “Whether you live on the coast or you live hundreds of miles from the closest beach, the fact is that every human on Earth depends on the oceans for the food we eat and for the air we breathe. Let me emphasize that. Most people don't think about that, but for the air we breathe. We depend on the oceans, literally, for the essentials of life. And as we all know, the oceans are home to countless different species and diverse ecosystems. And the environmental reasons for protecting the planet's oceans should be leaping out at people.”
The Sargasso Sea, called by Dr. Sylvia Earle “the golden floating rainforest of the ocean,” is named after the Sargassum (pelagic drift algae) that accumulates in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. It is the world’s only sea without coasts, and is a critical habitat for marine wildlife, including tuna, swordfish, eels, turtles, marlin, whales and more, providing resting, feeding and breeding areas and migration paths for many species. Because of the lack of effective governance of high seas areas, the Sargasso Sea and other ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction are threatened by diverse human activities including over-fishing, pollution, ship traffic, and even harvesting of Sargassum.
The Sargasso Sea Alliance has intense support from a long list of global leaders, known environmental stewards, and celebrities who understand the power of their roles in achieving global ocean protection. For more information about the Sargasso Sea Alliance, visit http://www.sargassoalliance.org/; and follow SSA on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SargSeaAlliance, and view the video at http://vimeo.com/72156864.
In Support of Sargasso Sea Alliance & Hamilton Declaration
David E. Shaw, founding chair, the Sargasso Sea Alliance:
“We hope that our pioneering work to enhance protection of the Sargasso Sea will become a catalyst for protecting vast and vital high seas habitats throughout the world. We are grateful to the many people and organizations who have contributed to our work.”
Kristina Gjerde, IUCN Senior High Seas Policy Advisor:
“The Hamilton Declaration represents a rare oasis of joint voluntary action to protect a high seas gem. Strong leadership on better protecting and managing the Sargasso Sea will send a strong message that now is the time for the international community to come together to protect wildlife throughout our global ocean commons. ”
Teddy Tucker, noted marine explorer and founding member of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute:
“The Sargasso Sea has been a focal point of my life for 80 years. Preservation of the marine environment is paramount to our existence.”