Coastwide
Guillermo Arias, AFP

World - High seas at stake as calls to adopt a global ocean treaty gather pace

Marine and other scientists are urging global leaders to fast-track an international treaty to protect the world’s high seas, the vast areas of ocean that fall outside national borders, and are increasingly at risk of environmental damage.

Marine and other scientists are urging global leaders to fast-track an international treaty to protect the world’s high seas, the vast areas of ocean that fall outside national borders, and are increasingly at risk of environmental damage.  

A group of marine experts and scientists have signed an open letter urging support for a global ocean treaty to protect the high seas before UN negotiations on the issue, which began in 2017, end this year.

The treaty would protect the world’s deepest oceans that are home to vast areas of underexplored marine life and habitats, and which are increasingly under threat from human encroachment. Pollution, overfishing, warming of the oceans due to climate change and deep sea mining and oil drilling are among some of the threats.

Though these high seas cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface, and produce half of the Earth’s oxygen, only 1 percent are protected.

Nichola Clark, an officer with Pew Charitable Trusts and a co-signatory to the letter, wants to see more protections for the world’s oceans put in place as part of the draft global ocean treaty.

“For most of the high seas, there's not a legal mechanism that governments can use to establish marine protected areas, which is really problematic,” said Clark in an interview ahead of World Oceans Day on June 8.

Tensions on the high seas

The absence of a legal mechanism is proving contentious in the negotiations for a treaty.

Some countries want marine protected areas (MAPs), those of ecological and biodiverse significance, to be identified before legal protections are introduced.


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