Summary of Protect the Neglected Half of Our Blue Planet

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The high seas are the world’s last conservation frontier. They comprise over 40% of the Earth’s surface, yet have remained largely unprotected. The United Nations is trying to change that. It has initiated a process to develop the first comprehensive, internationally binding treaty to protect the biodiversity and sustainability of the world’s oceans. In the journal Nature, four experts discuss what it will take to make such a treaty effective. The article provides solid background on the ongoing, high-stakes negotiations, which are expected to conclude sometime after 2020.

About the Authors

Glen Wright, Julien Rochette, Kristina M. Gjerde and Lisa A. Levin are scientists affiliated with the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. 



Negotiations are underway for an international treaty to protect the high seas.

In late 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a binding treaty to protect the high seas against over-exploitation. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s oceans are beyond national jurisdictions, and almost none of them are subject to international protection.

Although UN Sustainable Development Goals want to see 10% of the world’s oceans protected, some scientists believe that 30% will be needed. While scientists have been collecting a wide range of data on ocean health, the location of biodiversity hubs, and the effectiveness of existing protections, legal and other experts have been looking into viable treaty implementation options. A key issue will be the implementation of effective oversight and enforcement mechanisms – a prerequisite for successfully safeguarding the high seas.

More on this topic

Five Priorities for a Sustainable Ocean Economy
WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019
Should We Fertilize Oceans or Seed Clouds? No One Knows.
Is It Too Late to Stop Climate Change?
The Unnatural World
Deep-Sea Dilemma

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