Marine Biodiversity Gets a Lifeline With High Seas Treaty

The United Nations has formally adopted a historic treaty designed to protect life in the high seas, which is increasingly under threat from pollution, climate change and over fishing.

The pact, which was agreed to in principle in March, extends for the first time environmental protections to the two-thirds of the ocean that lie beyond national jurisdictions.

Among other things, it will allow for the creation of marine protected areas – safe havens for fish, plants and other vulnerable species – and the use of other so-called “area-based management tools” to more sustainably manage ocean resources.

The new treaty comes with the ocean, which plays a vital role in everything from the economy to regulating the climate, labouring under a triple crisis of climate change,  biodiversity loss and pollution.

Leticia Carvalho, Head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme, billed the Treaty as a major victory for the ocean.

“The new agreement provides, for the first time, a legal basis for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas or areas that are beyond national jurisdiction,” Carvalho said.

“The treaty puts a new framework in place to address marine resource conservation, sustainable use and management, and offers new governance tools and institutional mechanisms for decision-making and equitable benefit sharing,” she added.