UN backs a treaty to protect the high seas

It is hoped the treaty will lead to the creation of more marine protected areas

Supported by 140 countries, the UN general assembly has passed a resolution allowing negotiations to begin on a treaty to protect the high seas.

Waters outside national boundaries – known as the high seas – cover almost half the surface of the Earth and play a vital role in the functioning of the atmosphere and climate. But they suffer from a chronic shortage of regulation, and many areas have been devastate by pollution and overfishing as a result.

After years of planning, UN members agreed in December 2017 to open formal negotiations on an international treaty to protect them. Negotiations will begin in September and are expected to continue until 2020. It is hoped the treaty will lead to the creation of more marine protected areas. According to the UN, only about 5 per cent of the world’s oceans is protected at present.

“We are increasingly aware of the importance of the high seas to all life on Earth and this is reflected in the move to protect it,” said Peggy Kalas of the High Seas Alliance, an umbrella body for organisation working on issues to do with the high seas, which led the drive for the treaty. “The negotiations will be hard but there are many champion countries that have worked to get us this far and who will continue to push for a robust and meaningful treaty.”

It is too early to say how ambitious the treaty will be in scope. While some have express doubt about how effectively it could be enforced, the UN resolution has been largely welcomed by conservationists.

Featured image: Randall Ruiz



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