Small-scale fishers in Thailand heading offshore in search of fish.
Nathan Bennett, University of Washington/University of British Columbia
Small-scale fishers in Thailand heading offshore in search of fish.

A diverse group of the world’s leading experts in marine conservation is calling for a Hippocratic Oath for ocean conservation ― not unlike the pledge physicians take to uphold specific ethical standards when practicing medicine.

A code of conduct for marine conservation would help prevent human rights violations that might occur during conservation and promote fair, socially responsible decision-making when planning and carrying out actions to protect the ocean. The recommendations were published May 15 in the journal Marine Policy.

“The benefit of developing a code of conduct is that we are taking past mistakes and learning from them,” said lead author Nathan Bennett, a postdoctoral researcher at UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and Fulbright Visiting Scholar. “We are trying to suggest a way forward and ultimately to increase the success of conservation.”

An international group of academics and practitioners from universities, government agencies and nonprofit organizations convened at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress ― the world’s largest recurring conservation event ― in Honolulu last year to discuss the need for a marine code of conduct and put together a framework for what such a document would include. This discussion, along with a review of existing conservation policies, is summarized in the new paper.

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