UN opens a way for a future high seas treaty

The negotiation will focus on “the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity” of the ocean.

In extremis, Sunday, December 24, the high seas was the subject of one of the last resolutions voted in 2017 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. More than 140 states have approved the opening of negotiations under the auspices of Mexico and New Zealand, which should lead to an international treaty protecting its biodiversity.
If the vast marine space – about half of the planet – beyond areas of national jurisdiction is not quite the lawless Far West that some describe, it remains very helpless in the face of what ‘waits on various farms, scientific or industrial.

Appetites sharpen before the mineral, genetic, food resources of the ocean. Admittedly, there are already rules of maritime navigation, sharing of exploration areas of the ocean floor, while regional fisheries management organizations issue opinions, not always respected.

But what will happen when advances in technology and demographics help, the exploitation of the ocean will pass at an even higher rate? For example, there is nowhere to create, for example, marine protected areas on the high seas, to require environmental impact studies prior to drilling, or to determine the intellectual property that governs the use of a molecule derived from this or that coral.


Huge issues

The stakes are immense. Negotiations are expected to last until 2020, when the UN’s green light talks began more than a decade ago.

The future treaty on “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity” on the high seas “will complement the Convention on the Law of the Sea of Montego Bay [Jamaica] adopted in 1982,” says Serge Ségura, France’s first ambassador oceans. However, in terms of the environment, it was only about oil spills.
It was then far from imagining today’s pollution: plastics, chemicals, cyanide fishing, noise and other disturbances that put marine life to the test. “We are increasingly aware of the importance of the high seas for all life on Earth,” said Peggy Kalas, on behalf of the High Seas Alliance, a coalition of 35 NGOs created in 2011. to defend the draft treaty.

As an illustration of this beginning of optimism, the riparian countries of the Arctic have just decided, as a precaution, a moratorium on fishing in the heart of this ocean before the melting of the polar ice cap makes it possible.

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