Countries from all over the world meet again as of this Monday 15th at the UN headquarters to try to finally agree on a treaty that protects biodiversity in the high seas, an instrument that has been under discussion for years and that environmentalists consider essential to save the oceans.
After failing to reach an agreement during what was to be the last round of negotiations last March, the governments meet for ten days in New York to try to reach a consensus.
On the table they will have the draft of an agreement within the framework of the already existing United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that seeks to “ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction».
These zones cover the waters located more than 200 nautical miles from the coast and that are currently regulated by different agreements and organizations, without a clear general framework.
Highly threatened by pollution, climate change and new technologies
The high seas, as these international waters are commonly known, represent the majority of the oceans and, according to environmental groups, are today highly threatened by pollution, climate change and new technologies that open the door to mining at the bottom of the oceans and more intensive fishing.
“These negotiations are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to save the blue part of our blue planet,” says Laura Meller of Greenpeace. This NGO and other environmental groups, united under the umbrella of the Alliance for the High Seas, hope that this fifth round of negotiations will finally lead to an agreement that has been talked about for many years and that began to be officially discussed in 2018.
“For nearly two decades, leaders have spoken and delayed as the ocean crisis continues to deepen. Now is the time for leaders to deliver on their commitments and finalize a strong Global Ocean Treaty.”
Signed by Costa Rica
So far, fifty countries have signed a declaration promoted by the European Union (EU) in which they commit to trying to ratify an “ambitious” agreement in 2022. In addition to Spain, several Latin American countries such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru have joined this commitment, also signed by Australia, Canada, India, Morocco and the United Kingdom, among others. The United States, which in the past had opposed the treaty, has joined the government of Joe Biden in calling for an adequate instrument to protect the oceans.
Meanwhile, environmentalists point to Russia and Iceland among the main obstacles for their insistence on excluding fishing from the final text and believe that the chances of success depend largely on the EU, which they accuse of promoting the “status quo” despite his promise to push through an ambitious treaty.