Two thirds of the world’s ocean waters can not be claimed or policed by any nation, according to the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty from the UN. However this hasn’t prevented nations of all size from exploiting the natural resources of the ocean through deep sea fishing, dredging, and marine mining operations.
Convening at its headquarters in New York City, the UN is coming up with a treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. As the negotiations enter their second week, the delegations have covered many topics such as funding, resources assessment, and more.
Other areas of discussion are how much oceanscape should be protected. Existing preserves manage 5% of the world’s oceans, and some of the proposed protections might add another 7-10% of total high-seas conservation. Backed by several international conservation unions, the United Kingdom delegation would like to see protections expand to 30% of total international waters.
This would include protection from unregulated exploitation, not a complete prohibition of exploitative activities. The main purpose is to provide safe-haven for delicate ecosystems like hydrothermal vent systems, areas of ocean that seem to have maintained a steady temperature throughout the last few decades, and regions that are particularly rich in nutrients, such as areas where cold deep ocean water rises to the surface or current confluences.
Other issues such as who would manage, police, and study the preserved areas have been deliberated thoroughly.
Despite this, Rena Lee, the representative from Singapore and president of the conference, noted that a rough draft of the treaty would be available on the 25th of July, several weeks before the next convening in mid-August. She assured the conference that all proposals would be studied, with the aim of producing a concise document to enable more precise negotiations on the future treaty.