Ocean plastics and the BBNJ treaty—is plastic frightening enough to insert itself into the BBNJ treaty, or do we need to wait for a treaty of its own?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Marine litter, and plastics in particular, is fast rising to the top of the political agenda at all levels of governance. The popular phrase today, evoked at all political meetings, in all speeches and at all cocktail parties, is that by 2050, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean. This is a simple and valid prediction naturally, since global fish stocks are fished at capacity and therefore not increasing in number—whereas the inflow of plastics into the ocean is continuous and rising. Stopping litter from entering the marine ecosystem is therefore the logical step to stop the prediction from coming true. Do we have time to wait for the international community to come together to ratify a treaty text on this, with the required years of negotiations in between, though? Granted, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) passed 13 nonbinding resolutions in December of 2017 of which one was on marine microplastics. They are still nonbinding though and without any teeth or financial instruments attached. The General Assembly, however, adopted resolution 72/249 also in December 2017, on a conference spanning a 2-year period, starting in 2018, where the end goal is to agree on a treaty on the protection of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). We argue in this article that, rather than waiting for a treaty that is plastics specific, a path to fast action could be to incorporate this into these negotiations, since plastic is interweaved as a substantial stressor to the system and to biodiversity in all areas of the ocean.