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Ocean Treaty: International Agreement Reached to Protect the Ocean

After a decade of negotiations, nations have finally reached a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans. The High Seas Treaty, which places 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030, aims to safeguard and restore marine nature. This breakthrough agreement was reached on Saturday evening after 38 hours of talks at the UN headquarters in New York. The negotiations had been held up for years over disagreements on funding and fishing rights.

Background on International Ocean Protection

The last international agreement on ocean protection was signed 40 years ago in 1982 – the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That agreement established an area called the high seas, which are international waters where all countries have the right to fish, ship, and conduct research. However, only 1.2% of these waters are currently protected. Marine life living outside of these protected areas has been at risk from climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic.

Impact of the New Protected Areas

These newly established protected areas in the High Seas Treaty will limit how much fishing can take place, the routes of shipping lanes, and exploration activities like deep sea mining. Environmental groups have raised concerns that mining processes could disturb animal breeding grounds, create noise pollution, and be toxic for marine life. The International Seabed Authority overseeing licensing has committed to enforcing strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure that future activities in the deep seabed are carried out sustainably and responsibly.

Challenges and Issues During Negotiations

The main issue during negotiations was over the sharing of marine genetic resources. These resources are biological material from plants and animals in the ocean that can have benefits for society, such as pharmaceuticals, industrial processes, and food. Richer nations currently have the resources and funding to explore the deep ocean, but poorer nations wanted to ensure that any benefits they find are shared equally. The challenge is that no one knows how much ocean resources are worth and, therefore, how they could be split. According to Dr. Robert Blasiak, an ocean researcher at Stockholm University, our knowledge of the deep ocean is limited, and more research is needed.

Future Steps

Countries will need to meet again to formally adopt the agreement, and then there is a lot of work to do before the treaty can be implemented. It will take time to take effect, as countries have to ratify it legally for it to enter force. Then there are many institutional bodies like the Science and Technical Committee that have to be set up.


This historic agreement represents a significant step forward in ocean conservation and is a sign that, in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics. The High Seas Treaty will enable countries to protect the oceans, build resilience to climate change, and safeguard the lives and livelihoods of billions of people.