The UN gathered to resume efforts for ocean treaty talks on Monday as the aquatic crisis deepens. Representatives of the United Nations in New York, US gathered to negotiate its most awaited treaty to safeguard the Marine Biodiversity. This comes after years of informal talks which opened optimistically as many hope to make a decision eventually. The global treaty will safeguard and manage nearly 75% of the world’s oceans that lie outside the countries’ national boundaries that are known as Exclusive Economic Zones or high seas.
UN nations gathered to resume ocean treaty
UN nations eagerly gathered on Monday to resume elusive Ocean treaty talks and muster efforts to save the marine biodiversity before its too late. The aim of the UN ocean treaty is to produce a global agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of the vast marine ecosystem. The ocean treaty talks, officially called the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, resume negotiations to protect biodiversity and draft a final conclusion.
The negotiations, which commenced early this week, will go on till 3rd of March after no agreement has been reached over a decade. Remarkably, this is the third time in less than one year that the diplomats from the member nations have gathered at the UN headquarters and, due to the momentous deal reached at the end of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference or COP15 in Montreal, Canada, many are optimistic.
“I hope we’ve gathered here with a staunch will to get us to the finish line,” said Ocean treaty conference chairperson Rena Lee, addressing the members as the talks began, reported the media. She further added, “an assent that is globally accepted, that is significant, and that is implementable is within our reach.” The President of the Conference encouraged the diplomats of the member nations to abide by the progress made during the August session, last year and focus on developing an agreement “that will shorten the existing gaps.”
“The ocean is the life sustaining mechanism of our globe,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada’s University. “For years we did not know we had a large impact on the high seas. But that perception has changed with the expansion of deep sea fishing, mining, plastic pollution, climate change,” and other human activities, he said.
Last year, delegates from about 193 nations in Montreal signed an assent known as 30 by 30 which committed to protecting 30 per cent of terrestrial and hydrosphere which are considered bedrocks of biodiversity by 2030. Prior to this, only 18 per cent of land and 10 per cent of marine areas were safeguarded.
According to (IUCN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature, only 7% of the world’s marine areas are protected, which includes 1.8% per cent of the high seas. The EEZ that are protected falls under the North Atlantic and Southern oceans but they are regional and not global, or even binding for all governments, said Jessica Battle, a senior-most expert on Marine policy.
The cornerstone of the agreement will be on the high seas, which starts at the border of countries’ EEZ and extend up to 200 nautical miles from the coast and therefore fall under the administration of no country. Primarily, the high seas make up more than 65 per cent of the world’s oceans and almost half of the entire planet’s surface, but gets no attention since there are no borders.
Importance of Marine Biology
Last month, UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres quoted, “Mankind has been fighting a senseless and self-defeating war on nature, and the water bodies are on the front lines of the battle,” and called on the countries to finish the delayed negotiations. The oceans bestow significantly to global climate as well as provide oxygen, affect weather systems, and trap a portion of human-generated carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas heating up the planet.
“The ocean nurtures a wide range of biodiversity and is abode to millions of species. According to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, at least 15 per cent of marine flora and fauna assessed are under threat of going extinct. Furthermore, oceans have been subjected to over-consumption of fishes, depleting not only the marine stocks but also their ability to multiply”, said Battle, a renowned marine biologist.
She also mentioned the phenomenon of “bycatch”, which means fish that is accidentally caught is later discarded as waste. It is estimated that bycatch accounts for at least 36 per cent of the global commercial catch. The human-induced climate change which has adversely impacted marine health and caused coral reefs to bleach and forced fish to migrate to cooler waters is worsening the crisis.
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