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The Inertia

United Nations leaders have been attempting to establish an international High Seas Treaty for years now, creating legally binding agreements that would protect open ocean waters beyond the 200 nautical miles of each nation’s jurisdiction. The U.N. initiative started in 2017 and they’ve come up empty-handed in the five times they’ve attempted to create a treaty.

Ironically, a major reason conservation groups argue the U.N. needs to make the treaty a reality is the same reason many nations are hesitant to commit to one. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s oceans are designated as international waters right now, leaving marine life and anything else open to overfishing, deep sea mining, and other environmental risks. And an international treaty would go a long way to protect it all, effectively establishing a new massive network of Marine Protection Areas. As a matter of fact, The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said in the past that the “fragmented nature of ocean governance” is what prevents us from effectively protecting the ocean on a global scale.

“As we focus on getting the details right, we cannot lose sight of the big picture: we need an ambitious, well-resourced, and future-proofed agreement,” they’ve said. “We cannot simply echo the obligations that already exist – we need to build something strong, flexible and effective to save our marine biodiversity and ourselves.”

So is there actually hope this fifth time around? Fifty member nations formed a coalition aimed at pushing a new treaty through earlier this year, adding some pressure to getting a deal done. But with 193 nations in total, that still leaves a lot of work to be done between now and the August 29th end to this round of talks for the High Seas Treaty.



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