Countries reach ‘historic’ deal to protect marine life on high seas

For the primary time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity within the high seas – representing a turning level for huge stretches of the planet the place conservation has beforehand been hampered by a complicated patchwork of legal guidelines.

The U.N. Conference on the Legislation of the Sea got here into power in 1994, earlier than marine biodiversity was a well-established idea. The treaty settlement concluded two weeks of talks in New York.

An up to date framework to protect marine life within the areas outdoors nationwide boundary waters, generally known as the high seas, had been in discussions for greater than 20 years, however earlier efforts to reach an settlement had repeatedly stalled. The unified settlement treaty, which applies to almost half the planet’s floor, was reached late Saturday.

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“We solely actually have two main world commons _ the environment and the oceans,” mentioned Georgetown marine biologist Rebecca Helm. Whereas the oceans might draw much less consideration, “defending this half of earth’s floor is totally important to the well being of our planet.”

Nichola Clark, an oceans professional on the Pew Charitable Trusts who noticed the talks in New York, known as the long-awaited treaty textual content “a once-in-a-generation alternative to protect the oceans _ a serious win for biodiversity.”

The treaty will create a brand new physique to handle conservation of ocean life and set up marine protected areas within the high seas. And Clark mentioned that’s important to obtain the U.N. Biodiversity Convention’s current pledge to protect 30% of the planet’s waters, in addition to its land, for conservation.

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Treaty negotiations initially have been anticipated to conclude Friday, however stretched by means of the evening and deep into Saturday. The crafting of the treaty, which at instances regarded in jeopardy, represents “a historic and overwhelming success for worldwide marine safety,” mentioned Steffi Lemke, Germany’s setting minister.

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“For the primary time, we’re getting a binding settlement for the high seas, which till now have hardly been protected,” Lemke mentioned. “Complete safety of endangered species and habitats is now lastly potential on greater than 40% of the Earth’s floor.”

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The treaty additionally establishes floor guidelines for conducting environmental affect assessments for industrial actions within the oceans.

“It means all actions deliberate for the high seas want to be checked out, although not all will undergo a full evaluation,” mentioned Jessica Battle, an oceans governance professional on the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

A number of marine species _ together with dolphins, whales, sea turtles and lots of fish _ make lengthy annual migrations, crossing nationwide borders and the high seas. Efforts to protect them, together with human communities that rely on fishing or tourism associated to marine life, have lengthy confirmed tough for worldwide governing our bodies.

“This treaty will assist to knit collectively the totally different regional treaties to give you the chance to deal with threats and considerations throughout species’ ranges,” Battle mentioned.

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That safety additionally helps coastal biodiversity and economies, mentioned Gladys Martinez de Lemos, government director of the nonprofit Interamerican Affiliation for Environmental Protection focusing on environmental points throughout Latin America.

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“Governments have taken an vital step that strengthens the authorized safety of two-thirds of the ocean and with it marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of coastal communities,” she mentioned.

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The query now’s how effectively the bold treaty might be carried out.

Formal adoption additionally stays excellent, with quite a few conservationists and environmental teams vowing to watch carefully.

The high seas have lengthy suffered exploitation due to industrial fishing and mining, in addition to air pollution from chemical compounds and plastics. The brand new settlement is about “acknowledging that the ocean isn’t a limitless useful resource, and it requires world cooperation to use the ocean sustainably,” Rutgers College biologist Malin Pinsky mentioned.

Related Press author Frank Jordans contributed to this report from Berlin.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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