High Time for the High Seas at the United Nations

Date: 20th January 2015

Governments take it to the wire as third UN meeting on fate of the high seas gets ready to begin in New York.

World governments will meet this week, tasked with fulfilling the RIO+20 commitment to take a decision on whether to begin negotiations to launch a new agreement that would help protect ungoverned areas of the ocean – those beyond national jurisdiction (known as the BBNJ meeting).

The High Seas Alliance (made up of WWF, Greenpeace, Pew, NRDC, IUCN and many others) will be there calling on governments to keep their Rio promise.

At the Rio+20 Earth Summit, UN member states committed to take a decision whether to launch negotiations for a new ocean biodiversity treaty that would address the current lack of conservation measures for areas beyond national jurisdiction by the end of the 69th UN General Assembly in September 2015.  Governments at UN Headquarters have been convening a series of Ad Hoc Working Group meetings with the third and what is scheduled to be the final meeting being held this week (20-23rd January).

The high seas is a vast area that makes up nearly two-thirds of our ocean and about 50% of our planet’s surface and currently falls outside of any country’s national jurisdiction; this means it’s the largest unprotected and lawless region on Earth. The lack of governance on the high seas is widely accepted as one of the major factors contributing to ocean degradation from human activities.

A scientific report published in ‘Science’ by Steve Palumbi of Stanford University last week suggests that the most effective way to protect ocean life so it does not become extinct from farming and other industrial marine activities is to set aside large marine sanctuaries where fishing and industrial activity cannot occur.

Meanwhile in an opinion editorial published today, Global Ocean Commission Co Chair David Miliband explains how the high seas also provide critical ecosystem services for our planet.. A report published last year by the Global Ocean Commission estimates the economic value of carbon storage by the high seas range from US$74 billion to US$222 billion per year.

The High Seas Alliance will continue building a wave of change of public support on Twitter at this week’s BBNJ for stronger UN protection for the high seas. There’s still time to get involved and support by following @HighSeasAllianc and #waveofchange on Twitter.

The High Seas Alliance will also be reporting live from the BBNJ meetings so please follow us on Twitter and check our website for regularly updates.

Cover photo by Jorge Garcia on Unsplash

Posted on Categories HSA in the News UN Negotiations