After nearly two decades of talks, a historic step has been taken by the UN member nations in order to conserve and use marine biological diversity in a sustainable manner. This ‘High Seas Treaty’ is pivotal in bringing 30 percent of the earth’s land and sea under protection by the end of the decade, as agreed by UN members last year in Montreal, Canada. The treaty, primarily an agreement to share the benefits of marine genetic resources used in industries like biotechnology, remained an area of contention until the end.
According to the UN statement the legal framework would place 30 percent of the world’s oceans into protected areas, put more money into marine conservation, and cover access to and use of marine genetic resources. The treaty is crucial for addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, the statement added.
The high seas begin at the border of countries’ exclusive economic zones, which extend up to 370k from coastlines. Beyond that point, the seas are under the jurisdiction of no country.
The UN secretary general called the action a breakthrough and a victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing ocean health, now and for generations to come.
As per the treaty these new protected areas will put a cap 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.
These negotiations were going on for the past two weeks at UN headquarters in New York and the final treaty was signed on Saturday night amid loud cheer from delegates.