U.N. moves toward ocean biodiversity treaty


U.N. member states Saturday agreed to begin negotiations on a treaty to protect marine biodiversity in ocean areas extending beyond territorial waters, a move heralded by environmental organizations.

By calling to preserve vast areas threatened by pollution, overfishing and global warming, the eventual U.N. treaty would be the first to specifically address protection of marine life.

But the agreement was reached only after a small group of countries that are engaged in fishing and ocean mining blocked a more rapid timeline during the discussions between experts from the 193 member countries.

A majority of nations called for quick action, but several — such as the United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland and Japan — expressed reluctance.

The agreement was welcomed by the High Seas Alliance, made up of 27 NGOs plus the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They called it “a major step toward urgently needed ocean protection.”

“This is a big moment for the high seas,” said Karen Sack of the Pew Charitable Trusts, calling it “really good news for life in the global ocean.”

The treaty represents international zones that make up 64 percent of the oceans — a total of 43 percent of Earth’s surface.

“Today’s agreement could go a long way in securing the protection the high seas desperately need,” said Greenpeace’s Sofia Tsenikli.

The agreement was made after four days of discussions in New York, and the outcome of the meeting must still be adopted by the U.N. General Assembly by September.

International treaties and conventions already regulate activities such as fishing or protection of certain areas, but no text covers all dangers threatening marine life.

The U.N. has been in discussions for 10 years, but the General Assembly pushed for action following the Rio+20 conference on Earth’s environmental problems and enduring poverty in 2012.

  • Cynthia Allen McLaglen

    Why do you think that the Chinese and Japanese are sailing through the Panama canal to the Atlantic ocean? Why do you think that so many West Africans can no longer find enough fish on their coast and instead smuggle themselves to Italy to sell PACE flags and dark glasses in Florence? Their fish stocks are being decimated by huge fishing vessels which scrape the sea bed of all life. I am a teacher and I would show beautiful ocean wild-life but also the films of of this terrible way of fishing life in the seas that the over populated Asia is doing to feed themselves.= GOING INTO OTHER SEAS TO DESTROY ALL OCEAN LIFE! THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR A LONG TIME. The films I showed in the 1980s. Now is 2015! When will this Planet learn that when all a species is gone, it is gone forever? That also means we have less species to evolve into new species. Our species are TOO MANY! We will continue to grow until there is nothing left and of course the oceans will rise as they have done many times and there will be less WATER and less LAND to grow our food. This makes me very sad. I will not give up but I am afraid these messages will land on deaf ears.