Governments Start Formal Talks on High Seas Treaty

Date: April 16, 2018

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts 
Author: Liz Karan

Meeting in New York, London lay groundwork to protect vast ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction.

After more than 10 years of debate and discussion, the United Nations is meeting this week to launch an intergovernmental conference to negotiate a treaty on global protections for critical marine biodiversity on the high seas. In late December, in a landmark moment for the oceans, U.N. member governments agreed by consensus to move forward with four negotiating sessions by mid-2020.

The high seas comprise nearly two-thirds of the world’s oceans and include regions that harbor a fascinating diversity of life on which numerous species rely, including whales, sharks, and tuna that migrate across these waters beyond national jurisdiction. Certain activities, especially deep-water fishing and seabed mining, could damage or destroy sensitive habitats. While a variety of mechanisms—including regional fisheries management organizations and other bodies—exist to oversee such activities, huge gaps remain in conservation management of the high seas.

This week’s organizational meeting, which will be held at U.N. headquarters in New York from April 16-18, is a critical step in the treaty process. It will help chart a course for negotiations on the substantive issues that are scheduled to start in September. Setting a solid foundation for the talks now would go a long way toward helping delegates finalize the treaty by 2020.

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