Far offshore are the high seas—waters beyond any country’s jurisdiction and the focus of a contentious debate. The high seas, which cover nearly two-thirds of the ocean’s surface, have recently seen an increase in fishing and other activities, such as deep-sea mining. To protect the biodiversity of this vast environment, delegates attending a meeting currently underway in New York are negotiating for a new international treaty, an addition to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Depending on the outcome of this and subsequent meetings, the United Nations could move to regulate—or even ban—fishing and other activities on the high seas.
Currently, high-seas fishing is mainly managed by regional organizations, such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. But some conservationists and scientists say a global agreement is needed to protect this critical habitat from destructive activities. Deep-sea fishing often involves bottom trawling, which can kill life on the seafloor, threatening, for example, deep-water coral ecosystems. By-catch is a problem, too, and the lack of adequate regulation and enforcement also threatens vulnerable species.
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