Ocean Lovers Urge Rio+20 Leaders to Make Real Commitments to Restore Oceans

When people who love the ocean come together, they can achieve extraordinary things. That’s what happened when hundreds of people took to the waves to create NRDC’s Malibu Peace Paddle—one of the largest paddle-outs ever created. World renowned big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton led the peace paddle, not only to honor the oceans, but also to call for their protection.

This week, leaders from around the world will start to gather in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Earth Summit starting June 20th. The oceans have been named one of the seven priority areas for the summit, which makes sense, considering this is a meeting about the Earth and the oceans cover two-thirds of the Earth. NRDC, Laird and our other partners are urging leaders to make real, concrete commitments to restore our ocean waters.

Because if you spend time on the ocean, you know it’s time to take action.

The oceans have been a part of my life for as long as I remember. As a child, I spent hours playing in the surf off Cape Cod. In college, I fished along the rocky coast of Nova Scotia with my school’s fishing team. At the start of my career, I fought to prevent offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast. And recently I‘ve worked to help the Gulf of Mexico recover from the BP oil disaster and stop drilling in the Arctic—the world’s last wild ocean.

Over the years, I have seen the power of the oceans to excite, feed, and sustain people. I have also seen them undergo a growing onslaught of attacks, from destructive fishing practices to rising acidification. These trends are alarming, but I have also seen another trend: the growing collection of solutions we have for restoring ocean waters.

We know how to fish better, reduce pollution, and revive marine life. The question is: will we put these solutions in place?  Will our leaders do what it takes to scale up smart strategies and set real, lasting recovery in motion?


International conferences are known for generating reams of paper, lofty agreements, and distant timelines. NRDC has been working for the past year to ensure Rio operates on a different model: one in which action and accountability trump abstract arguments over a distant future.

We don’t want to hear what countries will do in two or three decades. We want to know what they will do when they return from Rio and get to work restoring the oceans.

NRDC will be launching a “Cloud of Commitments”—a website that will log all sustainability commitments made by nations, companies, and communities. Citizens around the world can access the database and hold their leaders accountable for what they pledge in Rio.

We will be paying special attention to what leaders commit to do for the oceans. Specifically, we want to see actions that:

  • Prevent oceans from becoming more acidic—higher acid levels make it hard for sea creatures to build shells—by reducing carbon pollution, creating protected areas so species can become more resilient, and monitoring key ecosystems vulnerable to acidification.
  • Curb the plastic pollution that invades our oceans by reducing the production of single-use plastics, holding producers accountable for the waste they generate, and establishing international guidelines for plastic pollution.
  • Supporting the development of a new treaty that would protect the high seas and its rich trove of biodiversity by making it possible to create fully protected marine parks.   

All of these solutions have been proven successful in waters scattered around the globe. Now it’s time to spread their benefits across the seven seas. We achieve that not through vague assurances due decades from now. We achieve it by taking concrete steps today.

Click here to tell your leaders to take decisive action to protect our oceans at the Rio+20 Summit.