Historic high seas agreement reached after decade of talks: Report

Nations have reached a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans after 10 years of negotiations.

The High Seas Treaty aims to have 30 percent of the ocean protected areas by 2030, in order to protect marine nature.

The agreement was reached on Saturday evening after 38 hours of talks at the UN headquarters in New York.

Negotiations stalled for years over disagreements over funding and fishing rights.

The last international agreement on ocean protection was signed 40 years ago in 1982 – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

That agreement established an area called the high seas – international waters where all nations have the right to fish, sail and conduct research – but only 1.2 percent of these waters are protected.

Marine life living outside these protected areas is threatened by climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the latest assessment of global marine species, about 10 percent were found to be at risk of extinction.

These new protected areas, established in the treaty, will limit how much fishing can be done, the route of shipping lanes and exploration activities such as deep-sea mining – when minerals are taken from the surface 200 meters or more from the ocean floor.

Environmental groups worry that the mining process could disturb animal breeding grounds, create noise pollution and be toxic to marine life.

The International Seabed Authority, which oversees the licensing, told BBC that going forward “any future activities in the deep sea will be subject to strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure they are carried out sustainably and responsibly”.


Rina Lee, the UN ambassador for the oceans, put down the gavel after two weeks of talks that at times threatened to unravel.

Minna Epps, director of the IUCN Oceans team, said the main issue was the sharing of marine genetic resources.

Marine genetic resources are biological material from plants and animals in the ocean that may be of benefit to society, such as pharmaceuticals, industrial processes, and food.

Rich countries currently have the resources and money to explore the deep sea, but poor countries want to ensure that whatever benefits they reap are shared equitably.

Dr Robert Blasiak, ocean researcher at Stockholm University, said the challenge was that no one knew how much the ocean’s resources are worth and therefore how they might be divided.

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