High seas treaty talks fail to reach a deal


Source: AFP

Author: Marine LAOUCHEZ, Marlowe HOOD


The clock ran out Friday at UN talks to forge a legally binding treaty to protect open oceans beyond national jurisdictions, with no schedule set for prolonging the discussions.

This fourth round of negotiations since 2018 — preceded by a decade of preliminary talks — was meant to create vast marine reserves to prevent biodiversity loss, oversee industrial-scale fisheries and share out the “genetic resources” of the sea.

“We have not come to the end of our work,” said conference president Rena Lee, a diplomate from Singapore, noting that the Covid pandemic had caused major delays.

“I believe that with continued commitment, determination and dedication, we will be able to build bridges and close the remaining gaps,” she said at the end of Friday’s session.

It now rests with the United Nations General Assembly to give the green light for another round of talks.

“All efforts must be devoted in the coming months to secure this long-awaited treaty in 2022,” said Peggy Kalas, president of the High Seas Alliance, a coalition of more than forty major NGOs and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A so-called High Ambition Coalition of European Union nations and 13 other countries, including India, Australia, Canada and Britain, have endorsed the same goal.

Some nations and many environmental groups have called for at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans to be granted protected status, a target also to be on the table at UN biodiversity talks later this year.

Currently less that one percent of open ocean enjoys that status, according to the High Seas Alliance.

Oceans produce half the oxygen we breathe, regulate the weather and provide humanity’s single largest source of protein.

But they are being pushed to the brink by human activities.

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©AFP/Frederic J. BROWN