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The High Seas Treaty: A Lifeline for Marine Biodiversity

The world's marine biodiversity has received a much-needed lifeline with the adoption of a historic treaty by the United Nations. The treaty aims to protect life on the high seas, which face increasing threats from pollution, climate change, and overfishing. The agreement, which was agreed to in principle in March and formally adopted recently, extends environmental protections to the two-thirds of the ocean that lies beyond national jurisdictions. This marks the first time such protections have been extended to these areas.
The high seas treaty offers an updated framework to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in 1994. The ocean, which plays a crucial role in the economy and climate regulation, is currently facing a triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The new treaty provides a legal basis for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas, aligning with the aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Kunming-Montreal Global Framework for Biodiversity.
Leticia Carvalho, the Head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme, emphasizes the significance of the high seas treaty as a major step forward in protecting biodiversity and sharing the benefits of marine resource utilization in a fair and equitable manner. In the past, the high seas have been governed in a fragmented manner, with limited coherence and coordination between global bodies regulating human activities in these areas. This has resulted in inadequate governance structures that fail to address environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. The treaty introduces a new framework for marine resource conservation, sustainable use, and management, along with new governance tools and institutional mechanisms for decision-making and equitable benefit-sharing.
The high seas treaty is not only a victory for the ocean and biodiversity but also for multilateralism. At a time when many multilateral agreements are struggling to reach successful conclusions, the ability of countries to come together and agree on this new instrument for the oceans is commendable. The negotiators demonstrated resolution and compromise, ultimately achieving a comprehensive agreement that addresses all aspects of marine resource conservation and benefit-sharing. This success restores faith in humanity's ability to work together towards shared goals and highlights the effectiveness of the United Nations in bringing the world together.
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One of the pressing issues the treaty aims to tackle is the conservation of biodiversity in the ocean. With nearly 10 percent of marine species threatened with extinction, the treaty plays a coordinating role and promotes cooperation among existing legal instruments and frameworks. It establishes a procedure for establishing area-based management tools within the high seas, including marine protected areas. By doing so, the treaty contributes to the goal of protecting 30 percent of the world's terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030, as set out in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This level of protection reduces the extinction risk of species and supports the recovery of the ocean ecosystem, making it healthier, more resilient, and more productive.
The next step for the high seas treaty is ratification. The agreement will enter into force 120 days after 60 countries ratify, approve, or accede to it. However, ratification requires countries to have national implementing legislation that codifies the treaty within their countries. The time it takes for ratification is uncertain, as it took 12 years for the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas to be ratified. Nevertheless, it is crucial to expedite the ratification process to ensure the timely implementation of the treaty. The health of the oceans is at stake, and delay could exacerbate the challenges faced by marine biodiversity.
In conclusion, the adoption of the high seas treaty marks a significant victory for marine biodiversity and multilateralism. It establishes a legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdictions. By coordinating efforts, promoting cooperation, and establishing marine protected areas, the treaty contributes to the conservation goals outlined in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. However, the timely ratification and implementation of the treaty are crucial to address the pressing threats faced by the ocean. The high seas cannot wait, and urgent action is needed to ensure the long-term health and resilience of marine ecosystems.
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  • Munene Mugambi

    55 w

    This is an important milestone in marine ecosystems

    4
    • Sarah Chabane

      55 w

      Such great news and an achievement for the global community!

      5
      • Marine Stephan

        55 w

        Thanks for sharing! This is such an important treaty, let's hope it gets ratified pretty fast and soon

        5
        Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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