The world has a “once in a lifetime” chance to protect the high seas from exploitation, warned scientists and environmentalists, as negotiators meet at the UN headquarters in New York this week to hammer out a new treaty on the oceans.
The ocean is home to millions of species, many of which are still unknown to humans. It supplies us with oxygen and each year absorbs nearly 25% of the greenhouse gases we produce by burning fossil fuels. However, vast areas of the high seas, which cover nearly half of the Earth’s surface, remain unregulated.
No flag can claim the high seas, but many nations exploit them. As a result, life in the two-thirds of the oceans beyond any country’s territorial waters faces many threats that are largely unregulated, including overfishing and the emerging deep-sea mining industry.
Far from every shore, beyond the jurisdiction of any country, lie the vast high seas, full of life and biodiversity. They cover nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the world’s ocean and harbor life, ranging from whales, turtles, sharks, and dolphins to deep-sea corals, hydrothermal vents, and, experts believe, a variety of undiscovered sea life.
Today the high seas face increasing threats from human activities, including fishing, pollution, and seabed mining, but there is no comprehensive conservation mechanism in place to protect the biodiversity that thrives in these waters and maintain a healthy ocean.
That could soon change. From March 25 to April 5, governments will reconvene at United Nations headquarters in New York to continue negotiations on the first treaty to protect the high seas by 2020.
The latest technical paper on catch documentation schemes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), discusses how such schemes benefit, or could benefit, deep-sea fisheries by protecting them from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
From 1-3 December 2011, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC) jointly organized an international seminar on the “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction”.
DSCC members attended the third ad hoc informal working group meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (known as BBNJ), at the United Nations 1st – 5th February 2010. The meeting was convened to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.