Our oceans need us

Our oceans are on the verge of collapse and we have all played a role in this. Now we must all play our part to stop it.

Javier Bardem Greenpeace
Actor Javier Bardem on the bridge with the ocean reflecting in the window, on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctic, January 24, 2018 [Christian Aslund/Greenpeace]

I feel incredibly lucky to have visited our planet’s frozen frontiers. 

Last year I joined a Greenpeace expedition to the Antarctic to research the state of our oceans and bring the incredible diversity of life I saw there closer to people who may never get a chance to see it. I saw penguins plunging into the water, I saw the ice shining in countless tonnes of white and blue, a world of wonders and majestic whales. With scientists, I squeezed into a tiny submarine to go down to the depths of the oceans, where few humans had been before. I felt embraced by nature.

That is why I was so frustrated to see that the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) threw away a huge opportunity to safeguard the Antarctic Ocean by failing to create a vast protected area. Despite scientific evidence, a few countries can block protection to safeguard their short-term economic interests. This is a microcosm of the broken system we currently live in.

Today, world governments are meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss the future of our seas in an historic negotiation towards a Global Ocean Treaty, which has been more than a decade in the making. This is the third out of four meetings at the UN to negotiate a treaty that could help protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

I urge attending delegates at the UN to not repeat the mistakes of the past and miss an opportunity to protect our oceans once again.

We are all surrounded by the ocean, even if we sometimes feel far away from it. Maybe that is why the many threats facing our oceans – plastic pollution, overfishing, mining, drilling, ocean acidification and of course climate breakdown – feel so distant from our hearts.

Our oceans are under more pressure now than in any other time in history. But we are at a crossroads. The delegates that will be negotiating the future of our oceans today are also at a crossroads. And they bear a huge responsibility, individually and collectively, to take us down the right path.

I cannot help but feel that we, as living creatures on this precious planet, are taking a very dangerous track. You do not need to be an expert to understand what is going on. All you have to do is listen to the science and to the many signs nature is sending us. 

Our oceans are on the verge of collapse and we have all played a huge role in this. Now we must all play our part to stop it.

Without oceans, the earth would simply not function. And today, it is the UN delegates that represent us all, who are charged with this sacred responsibility. They have an historic opportunity to turn the tide, not just for the high seas and marine life, but for the planet as a whole, for the millions of people who depend on healthy oceans to survive, and for our children and future generations who we pass this planet on to.

I am one of many that want this to happen. There is a growing global movement of millions outside of these negotiations demanding the protection of our oceans, and the whales, turtles, penguins and other incredible life to which they are home. The world is watching as governments negotiate this treaty and this time we just can’t afford to get it wrong. Today, I am in New York to do my part and ask the delegates to do theirs, by committing to a strong treaty we can be proud of, one that can create safe havens for marine life to recover.

The oceans belong to us all, but their fate is now in the hands of the delegates. The instinct to protect is one of humanity’s noblest traits. Please embody this principle. Please protect our oceans.

This op-ed is based on Javier Bardem’s address to United Nations delegates at the Global Ocean Treaty negotiations.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.