The United Nations members have reached an agreement on a treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas, marking a significant turning point in conservation efforts for vast areas of the planet previously hampered by a patchwork of laws. The treaty is the first of its kind for the high seas, with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea coming into force before the concept of marine biodiversity was well-established. The agreement followed two weeks of talks in New York, and it is hoped that the treaty will provide a more unified approach to protecting and conserving the world’s oceans.
The high seas are regions outside national boundary waters and are essential for biodiversity conservation, but previous efforts to protect them have been hampered by a confusing patchwork of laws. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in 1994, did not have any provisions for protecting marine biodiversity. However, the new treaty represents a turning point for the high seas conservation.
Georgetown marine biologist Rebecca Helm emphasized the importance of protecting the oceans, which comprise nearly half of the planet’s surface and constitute a central global commons alongside the atmosphere. Despite receiving less attention, Helm noted that safeguarding the high seas is “absolutely critical to the health of our planet.”