UN members adopt first-ever treaty to protect marine life on the high seas

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Members of the United Nations adopted the first-ever treaty to protect marine life on the high seas on Monday, with the UN chief hailing the historic deal as giving the ocean “a fighting chance.” “.

Delegates from the 193 member countries applauded and then rose to a standing ovation when Singapore’s Ambassador for Ocean Affairs Rena Lee, who chaired the negotiations, struck her gavel after hearing no objection to the approval of the treaty.

The treaty to protect biodiversity in waters outside national borders, known as the high seas, covering almost half of the earth’s surface, had been under discussion for more than 20 years, efforts to reach a deal being stalled on several occasions. But in March, delegates to an intergovernmental conference established by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2017 agreed on a treaty.

The new treaty falls under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which entered into force in 1994, before marine biodiversity was a well-established concept. It will open for signature on September 20, during the annual meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly, and it will come into force once it is ratified by 60 countries.

The treaty will create a new body to manage the conservation of marine life and establish marine protected areas on the high seas. It also establishes ground rules for carrying out environmental impact assessments for commercial activities in the oceans.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates that the adoption of the treaty comes at a critical time, with the oceans under threat on many fronts.

Climate change is disrupting weather patterns and ocean currents, increasing sea temperatures “and altering marine ecosystems and the species that live there”, he said, and marine biodiversity “is under attack from overfishing, overexploitation and acidification of the oceans”.

“More than a third of fish stocks are being fished at unsustainable levels,” the UN chief said. “And we are polluting our coastal waters with chemicals, plastics and human waste.”

Guterres said the treaty is vital to addressing these threats and he urged all countries to spare no effort to ensure it is signed and ratified as soon as possible, stressing that “it is essential to make in the face of threats to the ocean”.

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