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UN talks focus on protecting the oceans

Representatives from the United Nations’ 193 members gathered in New York on Monday for a new round of talks on how the world’s oceans should be managed.


The meeting could end with a treaty on the governance of waters beyond the 370-kilometer limit of territorial waters surrounding many nations, and for those parts of our oceans deemed beyond the jurisdiction of nations.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

Environmental groups hope the talks, which are slated to continue until Aug 26, will end with a treaty that protects marine life and biodiversity

Marco Lambertini, director-general of WWF International, told The Guardian: “The high seas… don’t belong to anyone. They have been treated recklessly with impunity. We need a common governance mechanism for our oceans to ensure that nobody’s waters become everyone’s waters-and everyone’s responsibility.”

The UN described the high seas as areas of oceans beyond the exclusive economic zones of nations, an area that is sometimes contentious and difficult to agree upon. However, these essentially unregulated areas are thought to comprise around two-thirds of the planet’s oceans

Environmental groups said the high seas play a crucial role in maintaining the planet’s health, with oceans absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to global warming and with them also soaking up 90 percent of the heat caused by warming

Advocates of a treaty claimed one would open the door to legislation that would ban damaging activities such as polluting and overfishing

Close to ’emergency’

But an agreement has been hard to find throughout at least two decades of talks, and when the last round of talks ended in failure in June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world was close to an “ocean emergency”

Rena Lee, president of the intergovernmental conference on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, told nations at the end of that gathering: “Instruct your negotiators to come to the fifth session with maximum flexibility to get to the finish line.”

Agence France-Presse said negotiators were “cautiously optimistic” as they arrived and quoted an unnamed source with the High Ambition Coalition-a grouping of 50 nations led by the European Union-as saying delegates simply need to find a compromise between the two “grand ideas”: protecting the environment and ensuring freedoms on the high seas