Historic Ocean Treaty

An agreement was reached on Saturday evening, 4 March 2023, after 38 hours of non-stop negotiations at UN headquarters in New York. The High Seas Treaty expects to put 30% of the planet’s oceans and seas into protected areas by 2030. The hope and expectation is that nature will be able to reestablish marine life in these giant swaths of ocean that are to be set aside around the globe.

The previous international agreement on ocean protections was signed in 1982, known as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Currently, only 1.2% of the “high seas,” are protected. Marine life outside these areas is at high risk from overfishing, and shipping traffic, in addition to concerns over climate change.

New protected areas, that are to be set aside in this treaty, will put limits on how much fishing, re-design shipping routes, and implement restrictions on deep sea mining. The latter which promises to be a growing element of future development, but which if not assessed and controlled will put oceans at even greater risk.

The International Seabed Authority that oversees licensing told the BBC that moving forward "any future activity in the deep seabed will be subject to strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure that they are carried out sustainably and responsibly". Countries will need to meet again to formally adopt the agreement.

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