WASHINGTON (AP) — For the primary time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity within the high seas — practically half the planet’s floor — concluding two weeks of talks in New York.
The U.N. Conference on the Regulation of the Sea got here into pressure in 1994, earlier than marine biodiversity was a well-established idea.
An up to date framework to protect marine life within the areas exterior nationwide boundary waters, often called 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 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 essential to the well being of our planet.”
Now that long-awaited treaty textual content has been finalized, Nichola Clark, an oceans skilled on the Pew Charitable Trusts who noticed the talks in New York, mentioned, “It is a as soon as in a era 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 is essential to obtain the U.N. Biodiversity Convention’s recent pledge to protect 30% of the planet’s waters, in addition to its land, for conservation.
The treaty additionally establishes floor guidelines for conducting environmental affect assessments for business 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 skilled on the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
Many marine species — together with dolphins, whales, sea turtles and plenty of fish — make lengthy annual migrations, crossing nationwide borders and the high seas. Efforts to protect them — and human communities that rely on fishing or tourism associated to marine life — have beforehand been hampered by a complicated patchwork of legal guidelines.
“This treaty will assist to knit collectively the completely different regional treaties to have the option to tackle threats and considerations throughout species’ ranges,” mentioned Battle.
That safety additionally helps coastal biodiversity and economies, mentioned Gladys Martínez de Lemos, govt director of the nonprofit Interamerican Affiliation for Environmental Protection focusing on environmental points throughout Latin America.
“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.
The query now could be how properly the bold treaty will probably be carried out.
The high seas have lengthy suffered exploitation due to business fishing and mining, in addition to air pollution from chemical compounds and plastics. The brand new settlement is about “acknowledging that the ocean is just not a limitless useful resource, and it requires world cooperation to use the ocean sustainably,” mentioned Malin Pinsky, a biologist at Rutgers College.
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