After a decade of negotiations, nations have finally reached a groundbreaking agreement to protect the world’s oceans. The High Seas Treaty, agreed upon at the United Nations headquarters in New York after 38 hours of talks, aims to place 30% of the world’s seas into protected areas by 2030 to safeguard and recover marine nature. The negotiations, which had been held up for years over disagreements on funding and fishing rights, have now overcome these hurdles to establish a new international agreement on ocean protection, 40 years after the last one was signed.
The High Seas Treaty establishes marine protected areas in the high seas, which will help achieve the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans. These areas will put limits on fishing, shipping lanes, and exploration activities like deep-sea mining, which could potentially disturb animal breeding grounds, create noise pollution, and be toxic for marine life. The International Seabed Authority has assured that any future deep-sea mining activity will be subject to strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure that it is carried out sustainably and responsibly.
The treaty will now need to be formally adopted by countries and undergo ratification for it to enter into force. Liz Karan, director of the Pews Trust ocean governance team, said that “it will take some time to take effect,” as institutional bodies like the Science and Technical Committee will need to be established. Nonetheless, Laura Meller, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, commended countries for “putting aside differences and delivering a treaty that will let us protect the oceans, build our resilience to climate change, and safeguard the lives and livelihoods of billions of people.” This historic day for conservation is a sign that in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics.