A historic UN treaty will protect biodiversity in the High Seas

After two weeks of discussions in New York, U.N. members have reached an agreement for the first time to protect biodiversity in the high seas, which covers almost 50% of the Earth’s surface.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force in 1994, before marine biodiversity was a well-established concept. An updated framework to protect marine life in the regions outside national boundary waters, known as the high seas, had been in discussions for over 20 years. Still, previous efforts to reach an agreement had repeatedly stalled. Finally, the unified agreement treaty was reached late Saturday.

The treaty will create a new body to manage the conservation of ocean life and establish marine protected areas on the high seas – And is critical to achieving the U.N. Biodiversity Conference’s recent pledge to save 30% of the planet’s waters and land for conservation.

The treaty also establishes ground rules for conducting environmental impact assessments for commercial ocean activities. Meaning all activities planned for the high seas need to be assessed in some form.

Many marine species – including dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and fish – make long annual migrations, crossing national borders and the high seas. However, efforts to protect them – and human communities that rely on fishing or tourism related to marine life – have previously been hampered by a confusing patchwork of laws. This treaty will also help to knit together the different regional treaties to address threats and concerns across species’ ranges.

That protection also helps coastal biodiversity and economies. Governments have taken an important step that strengthens the legal protection of two-thirds of the ocean and with it marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of coastal communities.

The question now is how well the ambitious treaty will be implemented.

The high seas have long suffered exploitation due to commercial fishing, mining, and pollution from chemicals and plastics. The new agreement is about acknowledging that the ocean is not a limitless resource, and it requires global cooperation to use the ocean sustainably.

What’s high seas?
The high seas begin at the border of countries’ exclusive economic zones, which extend up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from coastlines. They thus fall under the jurisdiction of no country. Even though the high seas comprise more than 60% of the world’s oceans and nearly half the planet’s surface, they have long drawn far less attention than coastal waters and a few iconic species. Only about one percent of the high seas are currently protected. When the new treaty comes into force, it will allow the creation of marine protected areas in these international waters.

At Priavo Security we are as passionate about protecting our environment as we are about keeping people safe. The sea plays a big part in our CEO, Pete Murphy’s life, as a proud former member of the Special Boat Service, and our maritime teams have personally witnessed the damage, destruction and pollution of the world’s oceans. A few years ago we partnered with the Nekton Foundation – an organisation dedicated to marine conservation, and have been supporting them on their conservation missions ensuring their scientists remain safe at sea.

To find out more visit https://nektonmission.org/ or check out our conservation pages here.

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