World leaders meet in attempt to protect oceans

World leaders will meet at the United Nations (UN) in New York later for more talks to save the world’s oceans from overexploitation.

The UN High Seas Treaty has been through 10 years of negotiations but has yet to be signed.

If agreed, it would put 30 per cent of the world’s oceans into conservation areas by 2030.

Campaigners hope it will protect marine life from overfishing and other human activities.

Two-thirds of the world’s oceans are currently considered international waters, which means all countries have a right to fish, ship and do research there. But only 1.2 per cent of these high seas, as they are termed, are protected.

This leaves the marine life living there at risk of exploitation from the increasing threats of climate change, overfishing and shipping traffic.

And with ecosystems in the high seas poorly documented, there is concern among conservationists that creatures could become extinct before they are discovered.

Research published earlier this year, and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of marine species are already at risk of extinction.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said at previous negotiations that the “traditional fragmented nature of ocean governance” has prevented the effective protection of the high seas.

The treaty would place parts of the world’s oceans into a network of Marine Protected Areas. Environmental Impact Assessments would be carried out before allowing commercial activities such as deep-sea mining to go ahead.

Deep-sea mining is when minerals are taken from the sea bed, that is 200m or more below the surface. These minerals include cobalt which is used for electronics, but the process could also be toxic for marine life, according to the IUCN.

As of March 2022, the International Seabed Authority, which regulates these activities, had issued 31 contracts to explore the deep sea for minerals.

Countries are also looking to include measures in the treaty that gives developing and landlocked nations more equal access to Marine Genetic Resources (MGR). -BBC

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