More protection on the horizon for our oceans
On Saturday, 4 March 2023, after almost 20 years of negotiations, countries of the United Nations agreed to the first ever High Seas Treaty to protect the world’s oceans that are beyond national waters. Most of the world’s oceans, two thirds, are considered to be international waters with open access to all countries to fish, mine, ship or do research as they see fit. Only about 1% of this area is safeguarded through marine protected areas (MPAs), leaving the vast majority of marine animals and habitats that occur in our oceans at risk to exploitation from industries such as shipping, fishing and mining, among others. This treaty will ultimately see 30% of the ocean protected in specific MPAs, it will ensure that more money goes into marine conservation and there will be rules governing mining in the deep waters.
Protection of our oceans is imperative for conservation of biodiversity and in our response to climate change. There is, however, a long way still to go before this treaty is legislated. Countries need to first adopt it formally, and then include the contents of the treaty in the legislation of their respective countries. This will then necessitate the process of identifying how the treaty can be implemented and managed. The part that we can play in this as organisations and citizens (of our countries and the planet) is to provide advice, input, and pressure where we can, to ensure that it happens.
Photo credit goes to Peter Pinnock