UN members agree to protect marine life in high seas

For the primary time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to guard biodiversity within the excessive 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 Regulation of the Sea got here into drive 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 guard marine life within the areas outdoors nationwide boundary waters, generally known as the excessive seas, had been in discussions for greater than 20 years, however earlier efforts to succeed in an settlement had repeatedly stalled. The unified settlement treaty, which applies to just about half the planet’s floor, was reached late Saturday.

“We solely actually have two main world commons — the ambiance 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 crucial to the well being of our planet.”

Nichola Clark, an oceans skilled on the Pew Charitable Trusts who noticed the talks in New York, referred to as the long-awaited treaty textual content “a once-in-a-generation alternative to guard 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 excessive seas. And Clark mentioned that’s crucial to attain the U.N. Biodiversity Convention’s current pledge to guard 30% of the planet’s waters, in addition to its land, for conservation.

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

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

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

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

A number of marine species — together with dolphins, whales, sea turtles and plenty of fish — make lengthy annual migrations, crossing nationwide borders and the excessive seas. Efforts to guard them, together with human communities that depend on fishing or tourism associated to marine life, have lengthy confirmed troublesome for worldwide governing our bodies.

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

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

“Governments have taken an essential 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.

The query now’s how effectively the formidable treaty might be applied.

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

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

Related Press author Frank Jordans contributed to this report from Berlin

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