All Sets to Sign first-ever Treaty on High Seas Biodiversity

 The first-ever treaty on high seas biodiversity is expected to provide a globally recognized mechanism to designate marine protected areas, and help protect at least 30 percent of the world's oceans.

by Xinhua 

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on Tuesday urged governments to protect the world’s oceans by finalizing a long-awaited High Seas Treaty at the United Nations (UN) in New York this March.

The first-ever treaty on high seas biodiversity would provide a globally recognized mechanism to designate marine protected areas, and is crucial in order to achieve the goal of protecting at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans, Jessica Battle, WWF’s senior global ocean governance and policy expert told Xinhua in a video interview.

Photo taken on May 28, 2020 shows fishes and sea anemone at a marine ranch in the sea area of Wuzhizhou Island in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province. [ Photo credit: Xinhua/Yang Guanyu]

One of the main impacts of human activities on the ocean is fishing, Battle highlighted.

At the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) which took place in Vancouver, Canada, from Feb. 3-9, the WWF called on policymakers to accelerate global ocean protection from 8 percent to 30 percent within eight years.

Previously, at COP15 in Montreal in December, the goal of protecting and conserving at least 30 percent of the world’s marine and coastal areas was adopted by 196 countries under the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

“China played a very strong role at COP15, making sure that we did get an agreement by the 196 parties to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030,” said Battle, who will attend the negotiations in New York.

In a resolution in December 2017, the UN General Assembly decided to convene an intergovernmental conference to draw up the text of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and use of marine biodiversity.


However, the UN’s negotiations for a High Seas Treaty stalled last August as delegates said more time was needed to reach an agreement on a final text.

Governments must ensure that the ocean receives the level of attention and protection it needs in order to provide for the future, Battle said.

Waters which lie beyond national jurisdictions, known as the high seas, comprise nearly two-thirds of the ocean’s area. However, only about 1 percent of this huge swath of the planet is protected, WWF said.

Battle said the treaty would be ratified when 30 countries sign up to it, and it is then implemented into national legislation.

It is critical that the treaty should enter into force quickly, Battle said.


WWF also said that the ocean faces new potential threats such as deep seabed mining, a nascent industry with the potential to cause irreparable harm to fragile deep-sea ecosystems.

“We are seeing a growing number of countries calling for a global moratorium … This will be agreed at the International Seabed Authority which meets three times a year in Jamaica,” Battle said.

“We need to safeguard this very important environment in order to reach biodiversity goals, and also to safeguard the ocean as a carbon sink.”

Many ocean areas play a key role for important species of shark, tuna, whale and sea turtle, and they also support billions of dollars of economic activity annually, WWF has said.

In its “Reviving the Ocean Economy” report, the organization outlined that the goods and services that flow from the ocean and coasts are worth at least 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars each year, and the overall value of the ocean as an asset is 10 times more.  ■