Pirates love the high seas and so do illegal fishers and poachers; heck cruise ship companies love the high seas as a place to dump sewage. All in, we don’t respect the ecosystems in the oceans because there’s only a few laws that can be broken and enforcement is weak. That’s about to change. 193 nations at the United Nations have agreed to a new way to protect the high seas, a big boon for aquatic species.
Covering almost two-thirds of the ocean that lies outside national boundaries, the treaty will provide a legal framework for establishing vast marine protected areas (MPAs) to protect against the loss of wildlife and share out the genetic resources of the high seas. It will establish a conference of the parties (Cop) that will meet periodically and enable member states to be held to account on issues such as governance and biodiversity.
Ocean ecosystems produce half the oxygen we breathe, represent 95% of the planet’s biosphere and soak up carbon dioxide, as the world’s largest carbon sink. Yet until now, fragmented and loosely enforced rules governing the high seas have rendered this area more susceptible than coastal waters to exploitation.