Protecting the high seas: UN member states reach agreement

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Protection of the high seas: UN member states reach agreement

The high seas begin where the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the States end, at a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coasts. (File photo)

UN member states finally agreed on Saturday on the first international treaty to protect the high seas, intended to thwart threats to ecosystems vital to humanity.

The ship has reached shore, said conference chair Rena Lee.

After more than 15 years of discussions, including four years of formal negotiations, the third last session in New York was finally the right one, or almost.

Delegates finalized the text at content now frozen in substance, but will be formally adopted at a later date after being vetted by legal services and translated for availability in all six official UN languages.

“The ship has reached shore,” said conference chair Rena Lee.

Despite everything, this is a major step, commented before the agreement Veronica Frank, of Greenpeace, stressing that care should be taken, however, that this process is not a backdoor to reopen questions.

The high seas begin where the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the states end, at a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coasts and are therefore not under the jurisdiction of any state.

Even if it represents more than 60% of the oceans and almost half of the planet, it has long been ignored in the environmental fight, to the benefit of coastal areas and a few emblematic species.

With the progress of science, proof has been made of the importance of protecting these oceans, teeming with an often microscopic biodiversity, which also provides half of the oxygen we breathe and limits global warming by absorbing a significant part of the CO2 emitted by human activities.

But the oceans are weakening, victims of these emissions (warming, acidification of the ocean). water…), pollution of all kinds and overfishing.

So the new treaty, when it comes into force after it has been formally adopted, signed and then ratified by enough countries, will create marine protected areas in those international waters.

Only about 1% of the high seas is subject to conservation measures, and this emblematic tool is considered essential to hope to protect by 2030 30% of the land and oceans of the planet, as if ;all of the world's governments are committed to it in December.

Life on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. The new high seas treaty will be crucial to our shared goal of protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030, argued Monica Medina, oceans chief at the US State Department.

Only about 1% of the high seas is subject to conservation measures. (File photo)

The treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction also introduces the obligation to carry out environmental impact studies of planned activities on the high seas.

Finally, a highly sensitive chapter which crystallized tensions until the last minute, the principle of sharing the benefits of marine genetic resources collected on the high seas.

Developing countries that do not have the means to finance very expensive expeditions and research have fought not to be excluded from access to genetic marine resources and from sharing in the anticipated profits from the commercialization of these resources. resources – which belong to no one – from which pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies hope to extract miracle molecules.

As in other international forums, notably the climate negotiations, the debate ended up boiling down to a matter of North-South equity, observers commented.

With an announcement seen as a gesture to build North-South trust, the European Union pledged, in New York, 40 million euros to facilitate the ratification of the treaty and its initial implementation.

Beyond that, it pledged to spend more than €800 million on protecting the oceans in general for 2023 during the he Our Ocean conference which wrapped up Friday in Panama City.

In total, Panamanian Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney announced that 341 new commitments, from a amount of nearly 20 billion dollars – of which almost 6 billion from the United States – had been taken at this conference to protect the seas.

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