United Nations members, nearly 200 countries, have agreed late Saturday on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas, considered „a once-in-a-generation opportunity”. Countries now have to formally adopt and ratify the treaty. The Treaty agreement concluded two weeks of talks in New York but the subject was in discussion for more than 20 years. The unified agreement treaty applies to nearly half the planet’s surface. „We only really have two major global commons – the atmosphere and the oceans,” said marine biologist Rebecca Helm. Under this agreement will be create a new body to manage conservation of ocean life and establish marine protected areas in the high seas. „Comprehensive protection of endagered species and habitats is now finally possible on more than 40% of the Earth’s surface,” declared Steffi Lemke, Germany’s environment minister.
The Treaty also contains rules for conducting environmental impact assessments for commercial activities in the oceans. „This is a historic day for conservation and a sign that in a divided world protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics,” Laura Meller, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic said in a statement. At this moment, before this Treaty, only 1.2% of international waters are protected and only 0.8% are identified as „highly protected.” Things must change. At least 30% of the global ocean is expected to be protected by 2030.