After a decade of negotiations on funding and fishing rights, a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans was signed on Saturday 4th March. The “High Seas Treaty” aims to protect 30% of the worlds oceans by 2030 in order to safeguard and recover marine nature.
The last international agreement of this kind on ocean protection was signed 40 years ago in 1982. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea established the high seas, international waters where all countries have a right to fish, ship and conduct research, but only 1.2% of these waters are currently protected. As a result, marine life living outside of these protected areas have been at risk of extinction from overfishing and maritime traffic.
In the latest assessment of global marine species, nearly 10% of the worlds marine life were found to be at risk , according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The new protected areas established in the treaty will limit fishing, shipping lanes, and exploration activities like deep-sea mining. Environmental groups have been concerned that mining processes could disturb animal breeding grounds, create noise pollution, and be toxic for marine life.
The International Seabed Authority that oversees licensing has said that any future activity in the deep seabed will be subject to strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure that research and exploration is carried out sustainably and responsibly.
The main issue to overcome was the sharing of marine genetic resources, which are biological material from plants and animals in the ocean. These have benefits for society, such as pharmaceuticals development, industrial processes, and food. Richer nations currently have the resources and funding to explore the deep ocean, but poorer nations wanted to ensure that any benefits they find are shared equally.
Dr. Robert Blasiak, an ocean researcher at Stockholm University, said that no one knows how much ocean resources are worth and how they could be split, which presents a challenge.
This historic treaty will have significant implications for procurement and stakeholders, particularly for businesses that rely on ocean resources and shipping. The treaty will establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which will limit or ban certain activities that may damage marine life. This will ultimately mean that businesses that rely on shipping will need to comply with the conservation objectives of the MPAs, which may restrict fishing, shipping, and exploration activities in some areas.
Businesses should ensure that their sourcing practices align with the treaty’s provisions and that they are contributing positively to the marine ecosystem.
The High Seas Treaty will have huge positive climate and environmental benefit as well as a positive impact on sustainable procurement.