Delivering on the UN High Seas treaty ambition

03 Apr 2023 | Dan Benham

March saw the historic announcement of a new UN High Seas treaty. In case you missed it,  this new agreement sets in place laws that will put 30% of our seas under stricter protections. The new laws will severely restrict fishing and shipping lanes, and put further guidelines on the types of commercial offshore activities that can be undertaken. The purpose of all of this is to give extra protection to marine life, in order for it to replenish itself and thrive, ultimately benefiting those communities which rely on the oceans for their livelihoods and prosperity.

At the Sea Ranger Service, the news was cause for immediate celebration. It is encouraging to see how over recent years more recognition has been given to our oceans and the services to biodiversity, climate regulation, clean air, livelihoods and the blue economy. Moving from a purely extractive approach to oceans, as an international community, it is now widely recognised that in order to take from the sea, we equally have to give back.

The original work devised for Sea Rangers is the monitoring of already existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the North Sea. Across the globe there are already over 17,000 MPAs which cover about 7% of the surface, unfortunately though, only 0.63% of these are found to have adequate capacity (ie. ships and trained personnel) to be managed properly. Whilst such areas of our ocean are protected on paper, in reality they are still open to exploitation. So what’s a workable solution?

Protecting ocean space

For the sake of our planet we need to see impact on the ground. Learning valuable lessons from traditional business models, the Sea Ranger Service has followed similar approaches to deliver a pragmatic and effective programme of ocean management and restoration, which we are excited to now scale in Europe. New protective laws such as the new UN Oceans Treaty are groundbreaking steps for our ocean. The next step is scaling solutions that can implement the ambition now set out and make real change happen. 

With the Sea Ranger Service we have developed a model to provide much-needed capacity to assist governments to manage ocean areas. By training and employing young people as Sea Rangers and deploying them to work out at sea conducting a range of conservation and ocean monitoring activities, increased active management of MPAs becomes realistic. We are pleased to have been able to provide these services to a variety of government agencies with 11 government contracts for offshore services carried out by Sea Rangers since 2018. As a social company we continue to tap into a growing desire from young people to work in purposeful ocean conservation jobs. 

Currently we are in the early stages of bringing new Sea Ranger Service franchises to the UK, France and Spain, through our franchising programme. Three enablers make it possible for the Sea Ranger Service to scale this growth in activities and impact. Firstly, by working  with local municipalities, maritime companies and government agencies, we are able to attract and train young people, who after their training as Sea Rangers, can transition into other maritime jobs. Maritime firms and government agencies are in growing need of motivated young talent and Sea Rangers are a perfect fit. Secondly, because we are a social enterprise instead of a charity, we are able to generate revenue for our offshore services, which in turn leverages the necessary capital investments to build new ships and train more Sea Rangers. 

Lastly, the Sea Ranger Service uses a variety of cutting-edge technologies including satellite data analysis for both biodiversity surveys and vessel tracking, drones for offshore inspections and hydrographic surveying equipment for (deep) sea mapping. This further adds to the portfolio of services the Sea Ranger Service provides and can tailor-deliver to governmental agencies and commercial firms.

Scaling solutions

We are grateful to be able to play our own small part and excited to help turn the tide in the years to come. The Sea Ranger Service model is financially sustainable and offers realistic scalability in the years to come, both in terms of our business and our capabilities to monitor and protect our oceans. We look forward to working in the new areas outlined in the UN High Seas Treaty in years to come.