Global Treaty To Protect High Seas
Author: Rachel Date Posted:14 March 2023
UN seals treaty to protect high seas, m’hearties!
From a consensus adopted in December 2017, and after 10 years of negotiations, a High Seas Treaty has been sealed under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable development of marine diversity.
What does this mean?
Basically, it will help protect areas beyond countries’ exclusive economic zones (up to 370 kilometres from coastlines); that is, international waters that fall under no jurisdiction.
And it’s also where pirates live.
THE HIGH SEAS
The high seas comprise more than 60% of the world’s oceans and cover nearly half the planet’s surface, but it might surprise you to learn that currently, only about one per cent is protected.
The legally-binding agreement will oblige countries to conduct environmental impact assessments for proposed activities like deep sea mining and fishing, where historically it has been uncontrolled.
Many marine species, including whales, turtles, porpoises, bluefin tuna, sea otters, manatee, and fur seals are on the edge of extinction due to climate change, habitat loss and overfishing. Environmental groups say the pact has the potential to reverse critical marine biodiversity losses and ensure sustainable use and development in protected areas.
30 BY 30
Launched by the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People in 2020, more than 100 countries, including Australia, have agreed to the 30 by 30 initiative. Growing scientific research is showing that half of the planet must be kept in a natural state to address both the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis.
The treaty is also expected to help reduce the impact of climate change. Scientists estimate roughly half of the oxygen production on Earth comes from ocean ecosystems like oceanic plankton, drifting plants, and algae.
Oceans also absorb up to 30% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Too much carbon dioxide increases the acidy of the oceans, which is also not good for marine biology. In the 200-odd years since the industrial revolution, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units, which equates to approximately a 30% increase in acidity.
While there are hopes the treaty will limit damaging commercial activities like overfishing and oil and gas drilling, there’s still a little way to go before all the good stuff starts to happen.
Though the text has been agreed - treaty countries have yet to formally adopt the treaty, and it will only enter into force once 60 countries have signed up and legally passed parallel legislation in their own countries.
Watch this space.
Let’s hope the North Atlantic Right Whale can hold on until then…
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