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Amy Brown headshot

Jane Fonda Lends Star Power to Last-Ditch Effort for U.N. Ocean Treaty

By Amy Brown
Jane Fonda speaks at UN press conference in favor of UN Ocean Treaty

Image © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace (press use only)

Jane Fonda is adding her star power and activist clout to a last-ditch effort to sign a U.N. Ocean Treaty that would turn 30 percent of the world’s oceans into marine sanctuaries, where fishing is banned, by 2030. Fonda delivered 5.5 million signatures from 157 countries to United Nations negotiators last week, with a looming March 3 deadline in this fifth and final try to reach an agreement. 

Fonda didn’t mince her words in a news conference at the U.N. on Feb. 21: “Not even dogs poop in their own kennel because they know that the kennel provides security and a home for them. We’re pooping in our own kennel. We’re supposed to be so smart. We’re destroying things we don’t even understand.”

For Fonda, the issue evokes the same activist fervor that led to her Fire Drill Fridays rallies around climate activism. As she told reporters last week, growing up in Santa Monica, California, imparted a lifelong love for the ocean. She's gone scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, as well as in the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

“I’ve swum with some of the most magnificent creatures, and I know that they may very well be more intelligent than me,” Fonda said. “And I love them, and I think that we should all understand that we’re talking about saving the last great wild animals that are hunted for food.”

Delivering the petition along with Fonda was Anta Diouf, a community leader in Senegal representing fisherwomen and processors from the region. “We female fish processors and the fishing communities we belong to are facing real challenges because of fish resource scarcity," she said. "Fishermen who supply fish to us risk their lives at sea as a result of such scarcity. The ocean is a world heritage when it is protected,” asking negotiators to “conclude this treaty for the sake of protecting our oceans, lives and jobs.”

If signed, this would be the world’s first treaty on the ocean’s biological diversity, a series of talks set in motion with a 2018 agreement by world leaders to draft an internationally legally-binding agreement under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

While there is growing global support for protecting the high seas, the major sticking point has been ensuring the ocean treaty has sufficient financing for not only establishing but also managing new marine protected areas (MPAs). An analysis by Blue Nature Alliance found that protection, management, and monitoring of MPAs covering 30 percent of the ocean could cost the global community up to $7 billion in establishment costs and slightly more than $1 billion in annual operating costs.

The financing issue stalled an earlier round of ocean treaty talks in August, along with differences among countries over sharing the proceeds of “marine genetic resources” that are used in pharmaceuticals and other industries.

The hope is that the tide will finally turn for oceans that are getting hotter, more acidic and less oxygen-rich, as the U.N.’s climate scientists have reported. Marine ecosystems face increasing threats from seaborne plastic waste, unsustainable fishing practices and other man-made stresses. 

Something has to give, and Fonda and the millions of global citizens giving their support to the U.N. Ocean Treaty are saying the time is now.

Image © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace (press use only)

Amy Brown headshot

Based in Florida, Amy has covered sustainability for over 25 years, including for TriplePundit, Reuters Sustainable Business and Ethical Corporation Magazine. She also writes sustainability reports and thought leadership for companies. She is the ghostwriter for Sustainability Leadership: A Swedish Approach to Transforming Your Company, Industry and the World. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn and her Substack newsletter focused on gray divorce, caregiving and other cultural topics.

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