At the United Nations in New York, negotiators from nearly 200 nations are hoping to finally seal a treaty to protect the high seas from the growing ravages of pollution, over-fishing and other threats. It might seem remarkable that there is no formal mechanism to regulate what happens on the high seas, the area beyond national exclusive economic zones and which covers nearly two-thirds of the planet. Negotiators are racing towards an end-of-week deadline to clinch the treaty, called BBNJ, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Years in the making, the treaty would be an international, legally-binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. At present, only about 1.5 per cent of the high seas is under some form of protection. This needs to rapidly increase if the world is going to achieve the target to protect and conserve 30 per cent of the world’s land and marine areas by 2030 – a target agreed at separate UN talks in December 2022 called COP15.