The Trouble With EEZs

I hope that everyone’s semester has gone well. I can definitely say that this semester has gone by faster than any other time in my life. Wrapping up my first semester at OU, a new reality is really starting to sink in for me. I’ve created this whole new life for myself here in Norman and I get to craft it however I choose. I can’t wait to see what the future brings me and to share it with fellow Fellows on this blog!

Now to the point of this post. For my last international topic of the semester, I have chosen to write about the sustainable use, or lack thereof, of our oceans. Because of everything that is going on in the world, this topic gets brushed aside, but I feel that it is important if we are going to discuss how to best care for our planet. Going to a marine science high school, I have learned much about the topic and wanted to bring my prior knowledge into this discussion.

To clarify, EEZs, or exclusive economic zones, are the boundaries of ocean extending from a country’s coastline where a specific group or nation has ownership of its natural resources. EEZs are essentially an extension of the country’s boundaries. Whenever this topic came up in my marine-related classes, it always came in conjunction with the controversy of who owns the oceans. EEZs are an attempt to assign ownership of certain areas of the ocean to certain groups, but it leaves much of the middle of our ocean’s as a sort of no man’s land. These two points combined creates a diffusion of responsibility between nations and excuses are made for a lack of unified effort in taking care of our oceans. Conflicts between different groups over who has ownership of a particular EEZ makes using its resources more challenging, but more importantly, it demonstrates one of the issues with getting any one group to take responsibility for preserving that same area. As a result, exploitation is bound to increase because it is hard to define who decides what the parameters for sustainable use are and who should enforce it. You can see how just this factor alone could seriously inhibit progress in saving our planet. If we continue to spend the time we could be using for creating sustainable solutions fighting for resources, they won’t be there for much longer and the argument becomes pointless. In the classes I have taken, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one country should own the oceans or even a specific area. We are all responsible for the well-being of our planet, regardless of nationality. Instead of focusing on what the ocean can provide us, we should change perspective and focus our efforts on unifying to think of ways we can give back to the oceans.

However, there is one situation where the answer is no longer black and white. There are numerous indigenous peoples around the world that rely solely on the ocean for food. A recent example of this is in Mexico, where indigenous communities from around the world are gathered at the UN Conference on Biodiversity this past month. Specifically, communities from Costa Rica are fighting for their right to natural resources as their government is struggling to stop overexploitation and make efforts to clean up their oceans. This “collision of interests”, as the article I found terms it, impedes progress in environmental efforts, but also has a negative impact on the lives of these indigenous communities. What are we supposed to do about these communities whose prosperity is dependent on the natural resources we desperately need to protect? Who are the state governments to tell these people they can’t fish in the same ocean they have for generations? This, I believe, is one of the top controversial aspects of this issue and deserves more open dialogue among ALL people, including these groups.

All in all, this issue still has much more to debate, and even more to be done. I am encouraged by the growing awareness of people in my generation about the state of our planet that we can come together to find sustainable solutions to the environmental issues that face us.

I have attached the article I found that inspired this post. Feel free to read it and do your own research on the topic! 🙂

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