March 10, 2023
- Nations have reached a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans following 10 years of negotiations.
The High Seas Treaty aims to help place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030, to safeguard and recuperate marine nature. The agreement was reached on Saturday evening, after 38 hours of talks, at UN headquarters in New York. The negotiations had been held up for years over disagreements on funding and fishing rights. The last international agreement on ocean protection was signed 40 years ago in 1982 – the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That agreement established an area called the high seas – international waters where all countries have a right to fish, ship and do research – but only 1.2% of these waters are protected. Marine life living outside these protected areas has been at risk from climate change, overfishing and shipping traffic.
In the latest assessment of global marine species, nearly 10% were found to be at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The High Seas Treaty establishes marine protected areas in these high seas which will help achieve the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans – made at the UN biodiversity conference last year. These areas will put limits on how much fishing can take place, the routes of shipping lanes and exploration activities like deep sea mining – when minerals are taken from a sea bed 200m or more below the surface. Environmental groups have been concerned that mining processes could disturb animal breeding grounds, create noise pollution and be toxic for marine life. The International Seabed Authority that oversees licensing told the BBC that “any future activity in the deep seabed will be subject to strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure that they are carried out sustainably and responsibly”.