Over 190 Countries Reach Historic Deal to Protect Oceans

The United Nations has signed off on a historic agreement to protect ocean life.

Environmentalists have hailed a historic deal to protect oceans reached at the United Nations by over 190 countries over the weekend as “the biggest conservation agreement in the history of the world.”

The High Seas Treaty moves to protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030 with the aim of halting and reversing the current extinction crisis.

The deal has been in the works for nearly 20 years. 

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea came into existence in 1994. It allowed countries to use the ‘high seas’, also known as international waters, for things like fishing, shipping, and researching. About 60 percent of the world’s ocean is international waters.

However, the law only protected less than 2 percent of oceans from things like overfishing and deep-sea mining. 

UN members have been trying to revamp the existing law since 2004, especially given the disastrous effects of climate change, overfishing, and pollution. 

Now, there’s a fresh framework to better protect our oceans.

This new legally-binding treaty creates a new governing body to conserve ocean life and establishes ground rules for how to assess the environmental impacts of commercial activities like deep-sea mining. 

It’ll also help turn 30 percent of the world’s oceans into protected areas by 2030. 

The Biden administration and the World Wildlife Fund applauded the decision. Now, the UN countries need to officially adopt and ratify the treaty in order for it to go into effect, but that could take years. 

Countries agreed to the finalized text of the treaty on Saturday night after 38 hours of negotiations and nearly two decades of talks, which were marked by disputes about fishing rights and funding.

The consensus followed a pledge by nations at the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal last December.

The agreement is still subject to the formal approval of countries.

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