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High Seas Treaty: Landmark Agreement Reached after Two Decades of Talks
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, March 5, 2023 @ 06:00 PM (EST)
Source: United Nations

After nearly two decades of negotiations, the countries of the United Nations have agreed to protect the world’s oceans lying outside national boundaries. The UN “High Seas Treaty” aims to place 30% of the oceans into protected areas, channel money into marine conservation, and impose new rules for mining at sea. The culmination of 38 hours of talks, at UN headquarters in New York, the historic consensus was reached on Saturday evening, with almost 200 nations agreeing to a legally-binding treaty to protect marine life in international waters.

Roughly two-thirds of the planet’s oceans are considered “high seas” and just 1% of these waters are currently protected. The remainder is essentially a lawless expanse with no restrictions on fishing, shipping or research, which exposes the marine life living in the vast majority of the oceans to threats such as overfishing, shipping traffic, plastic pollution, and climate change.

The “high seas” were established in the last international agreement on ocean protection—the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea—signed four decades ago in 1982. The new treaty is a legal framework for establishing vast marine protected areas (MPAs) to protect against the loss of wildlife and share out the genetic resources of the high seas. But parties will have to work fast: The High Seas Treaty aims to place 30% of international waters into protected areas by 2030—part of the 30x30 pledge made by countries at the UN biodiversity conference in December.

There is still a long way to go. First, the treaty must be formerly adopted at a later session. It will then only enter into force once a sufficient number of nations have signed up and legally passed it in their own countries. Finally, parties to the agreement have to start looking at practically how protection measures should be implemented and managed.

For now, however, ocean campaigners are celebrating. As Laura Meller, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, put it: “This is a historic day for conservation and a sign that in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics.”

Read more here.

The new treaty on the high seas—shown in dark blue—will aim to apply protections to two-thirds of the oceans



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