Speed Reads

Righting the ocean

Scientists call for ocean to be legally treated as a living being

Researchers and scientists have laid out an argument in favor of recognizing the ocean as a living being with rights in a new report in the journal PLOS Biology.

Doing so would recognize the various benefits that humans reap from the ocean, scientists say, including being responsible for 50-80 percent of the Earth's oxygen production, regulating the climate, and providing opportunities for transportation and recreation.

The report falls into the study of "Earth law," which is a legal sector aimed at having laws and institutions recognize the interdependence between humans and their environment, Science Alert reports. Despite the many benefits to humans, one of the principles of Earth law is recognizing the intrinsic value of nature on its own and not based on what it can provide, evaluating it as its own legal entity. 

The rights of nature have been the subject of several prominent debates in recent years. India, Ecuador, and the U.S. Supreme Court have all considered whether nature has the legal right to live, especially factoring in that human development can often have negative environmental impacts.

This is especially highlighted by the ocean's changes due to climate change. There have been reported changes in the temperature and even behavior of the ocean over the years. Coral reefs and other ocean inhabitants have also been affected.

"International law needs to evolve to reflect the Ocean's inherent rights to exist, flourish, and regenerate," the report's commentary states. "Ocean health is human health."