On Monday, members of the UN adopted the first-ever treaty to safeguard marine life on high seas, with the UN chief hailing the deal as allowing the oceans “a fighting chance.”
The delegates across 193 member nations soon burst into huge applause. They stood up in a sustained standing ovation as Singapore’s ambassador of ocean issues. Rena Lee, who presided over the negotiations, banged her gavel on hearing no objections to the treaty’s approval.
The treaty to safeguard biodiversity in the waters outside the national boundaries, known as high seas, covering almost half of the earth’s surface, had long been under discussion for over 20 years as consistent efforts to reach an agreement finally. However, in March 2023, delegates to an intergovernmental conference established by the UN General Assembly back in 2017 (December) agreed upon a treaty.
The new treaty is under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into effect in 1994 before marine biodiversity was a well-established concept.
It will be opened for signatures on September 20, during the world leaders’ yearly meeting at the General Assembly, and it will take effect once ratified by 60 countries.
The treaty is expected to create a new body for managing the conservation of ocean life and establishing marine protected zones on high seas. It further establishes the ground rules for carrying out environmental impact assessments for the execution of commercial activities in oceans.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General, explained to delegates that the treaty comes at a very critical phase, with oceans under threat on multiple fronts.
Climate change has disrupted weather patterns and ocean currents, rapidly raising sea temperatures and altering the entire marine ecosystem and species. He added that marine biodiversity is attacked by over-exploitation, ocean acidification, and overfishing. The UN chief mentioned that more than one-third of fish stocks are currently being harvested at several unsustainable levels.
And we have been polluting coastal waters with chemicals, human waste, and plastics. Guterres mentioned that the treaty is crucial to addressing such threats and urged all nations to spare no effort to make sure that it is signed and ratified as soon as possible, stressing that this is imperative to addressing the threats to the ocean.
References: Los Angeles Times, Telangana Today
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