Around 9:15 P.M., on Friday, July 21, the United Nations quietly took a major step toward protecting nearly half the planet’s surface. Most people, though, probably didn’t even notice. There were no television news cameras or celebrity activists on hand in a windowless meeting room at U.N. headquarters in New York City when delegates agreed to recommend that the body’s General Assembly begin negotiations as “soon as possible” on an international treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas.
The move, which ended two weeks of sometimes contentious talks to hash out the major elements of the treaty, could result in far-reaching protections for marine life through the creation of reserves and other actions designed to blunt threats to ocean health from climate change, over-fishing and pollution. The high seas constitute the nearly 60 percent of the ocean beyond any nation’s jurisdiction. They play a crucial role in the global climate, food supply and economy, yet are largely beyond the reach of the law.
Photo: Joel Hatfield/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)