NEW DELHI: Wrapping up almost two decades of negotiations, some 200 UN member countries, including India, on Sunday reached a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans and the species that dwell in them from exploitation. It is the first international agreement to protect the high seas, which cover 60% of the earth’s surface, regulate the climate and generate half of the oxygen we breathe.
The high seas begin at the border of countries’ exclusive economic zones and fall under the jurisdiction of no country. The treaty aims to make 30% of the high seas “protected waters” by 2030 and help establish a conference of parties for further negotiations. Protected waters mean there will be restrictions on fishing, what routes ships can use, and exploration activities like deep-sea mining.
The talks that began in 2007 have been hampered by disagreements even till the last minute. A major stumbling block was how to share marine genetic resources available vastly in the deep sea, like sponges, krill, corals, seaweeds, bacteria and minerals.
Industrialised nations target these resources for use in medicines, cosmetics, making electric vehicle batteries, and other industrial purposes. The treaty will give all countries equitable rights over fishing, shipping and research.
“The first UN convention on the law of the sea was signed some 40 years back, which didn’t address the emerging scenario where every country is eyeing resources to tackle climate change,” said G A Ramadass, director, the National Institute of Ocean Technology.
India was represented at the talks by a delegation from the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology, its director Dr G V M Gupta told this paper. The delegates are expected to reach back on Monday