Following 15 years of stalled negotiations, more than 100 nations came to a historic accord on Saturday to safeguard the high seas. This long-awaited achievement, according to environmental groups, would help stop the loss of coastal habitats due to overfishing and climate change and promote sustainable development.
After five rounds of drawn-out discussions headed by the UN that culminated in New York on Saturday, one day after the deadline date, a legally enforceable UN convention to protect and secure the balanced use of ocean biodiversity was finally reached.
Rena Lee, the head of the UN conference, announced that “the ship has reached the shore” after a 38-hour-long last round of negotiations.
The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was the most recent international consensus on ocean conservation.
Just 1.2% of the high seas, which are international waterways where all nations have the right to fish, ship, and conduct research, are currently protected.
Due to overfishing, climate change, and maritime activity, marine species that exist outside of these protected regions are at risk.
The “30 by 30” goal, which was established in Montreal in December, calls for 30% of the world’s land and ocean to be protected by the end of the decade. The pact is seen as a key element in these efforts.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), approximately 10% of marine species worldwide were deemed to be in danger of going extinct in the most recent study.
The amount of fishing allowed in these new protected zones, which were established by the treaty, as well as the paths of shipping channels and exploration activities like deep sea mining (the removal of minerals from a sea bed 200 metres or deeper), will be restricted.
Environmental organisations have expressed worry that mining operations could contaminate marine life, affect animal spawning areas, and produce noise pollution.
After two weeks of negotiations that occasionally looked like they could break down, Rena Lee, the UN Ambassador for Oceans, dropped the gavel.
The primary concern, according to Minna Epps, director of the IUCN Ocean team, relates to the sharing of marine genetic resources.
Biomaterial derived from marine plants and animals, or “marine genetic resources,” has the potential to assist civilization in ways including food, industrial processes, and medications.
Although richer countries now have the means and funds to explore the deep ocean, poorer countries wanted to make sure that any benefits they may discover are distributed fairly.