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FD: Historic treaty must protect oceans against shipping, fishing and mining

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Published: 6 March 2023

The ‘High Seas Treaty’ agreed at the UN headquarters at the weekend opens the path to finally provide protection to marine life across the oceans.

UN delegates have reached an historic agreement on protecting marine biodiversity in international waters | Photo by samsommer on Unsplash

A new, far-reaching international treaty must better protect marine life in the oceans. By 2030, 30% of international waters must be protected against excessive shipping, fishing and mining.

That is according to several international media reports. A more than 36-hour meeting ended last Saturday at the UN headquarters in New York, with delegates from almost all 195 UN-recognised countries in attendance.

The treaty has a long history, but gained traction in 2015 with a UN resolution. Five rounds of talks followed, in which an important role was played by the IUCN, an intergovernmental organisation to which thousands of scientists and environmental organisations belong. This Swiss-based conservation partnership publishes, among other things, periodic red lists of marine animals.


The convention has yet to be ratified by all participating countries. Environmental organisation Greenpeace, among others, was very pleased and called for rapid ratification. The UN and IUCN have not yet published official public statements*.

According to the participating organisations, climate change is an especially big problem for the oceans, as they absorb much of the earth’s extra CO2 emissions, making them acidic. Scientists also suspect that spontaneous warming of seawater is causing mass mortality of marine animals and the more frequent occurrence of cyclones and tropical storms.

International waters include all seas and oceans more than 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the coast. The last convention with rules to protect marine life dates from 1982, but covered only 1.2% of the global sea surface, according to the IUCN.

Negotiations have long been fraught with difficulty because of discussions on fishing rights, funding for nature protection and the distribution of possible future mining revenues.

This article was originally published by Dutch business newspaper FD on 5 March 2023.

*Both the UN and UCPN published statements on the agreement after the publication of the original article.

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  • Posted in category:
    • Climate & environment,
    • Funds,
    • Guide 2023

    Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet, producing at least 50% of the oxygen and absorbing at least 25% of all the atmospheric CO2. Building a sustainable ocean economy is a triple win for people, planet, and the economy. 

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