March 12, 2023: It took 10 years for the Nations to reach this historic agreement to protect the world's oceans. Read all about it. A ReferencePepper!
Thanks to the United Nations members, who came together to finalize this Treaty now, the marine life in the High seas will also be protected.
After receiving a green signal from negotiators of more than 100 countries, the UN member states have finally agreed upon a historic treaty to protect the high seas. The Ocean Treaty has finally come into effect after 15 long years of discussions, including four years of formal discourses.
The treaty was signed to promote sustainable utilisation of ocean resources after five rounds of UN negotiations, last Saturday in New York, on March 4. Experts are considering the move as a ‘win’ for biodiversity, since this is only a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
More than 60 percent of the world’s oceans, the so-called high seas are home to a huge variety of marine life, countless ecosystems and species which are still to be discovered. Till date, the High seas were used and the marine life exploited without any guidelines or authorities to give them protection.
But what are High Seas?
More than 60 per cent of oceans are not included in the Territorial waters of any country.
Each coastal Nation may claim the sea up to 12 nautical miles (nm) from its baseline. Not only the sea but the Nation also exercises sovereignty over the airspace above it, the seabed and up to the subsoil below it.
1 nautical mile = 1.852 Kilometres or 1.15078 miles
12 nautical miles = 22.224 Kilometres or 13.8094 miles
This is also known as the 12 Nautical Mile Rule.
Picture source: Wikipedia: Adapted from Image:Zones maritimes UNCLOS.jpg
The parts of the sea which are included in territorial waters of a country, or in simple words do not belong to any nation are known as High Seas according to the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas.
And as they do not belong to anyone, this also means all countries have the right to ship, fish and do research there.
In picture: International waters are the areas shown in dark blue in this map, i.e. outside exclusive economic zones, which are in light blue.
Picture source: wikipedia: File:World location map.svg
Only about 1 per cent of high seas are now protected.
What Is the U.N. High Seas Treaty?
The Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (also known as the BBNJ Treaty) is an international agreement that aims to protect and conserve marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). ABNJ refers to the high seas and the ocean floor beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones of coastal countries.
The BBNJ Treaty is being developed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and covers four main areas:
- Marine genetic resources
- Area-based management tools
- Environmental impact assessments
- Capacity building and technology transfer
How will the Treaty work and what will it do?
The new Global Ocean Treaty will create a network of sanctuaries across the globe, areas where fragile ecosystems and marine life can recover and thrive, by keeping the 30×30 target – protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 – alive.
This historic agreement will reverse the effects of marine degradation and loss of marine biodiversity, all the while encouraging sustainable development. The Treaty will not only work towards conserving the ocean, but also 30% of the Earth’s land.
Henceforth, a new body to take care of and manage sustainable utilisation and health of ocean biodiversity, simultaneously protecting areas of the high seas, will be created.
Nichola Clark, an oceans expert at the Pew Charitable Trust, believes that it's critical to achieve these goals for both land and water resources on Earth.
The agreement will also set up ground rules and necessary protocols for undertaking environmental impact assessments. All the activities planned for the high seas will have to be controlled and checked thoroughly.
Efforts to protect marine animals like dolphins, whales, sea turtles, who migrate annually to cross national borders and high seas, have previously been rather shaky or inefficient.
Tourism, fishing or other marine activities that communities engage with to earn their livelihood also require special protective efforts. Therefore, the treaty has to carry the burden of bringing different regional or local agreements together to address ocean-related threats.
These protective measures are crucial in taking care of coastal economies and related biodiversity. The high seas have been exploited for a very long time through commercial fishing channels, chemical pollution, mining, uncontrolled finishing and plastics.
Does that make everyone happy?
Yes almost everyone is!
“This action is a victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing ocean health, now and for generations to come,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.