Challenges Facing the UN High Seas Treaty

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By Zhang Chun 2018-09-07 19:10:21

The high seas cover two thirds of the ocean and are home to 90% of marine life, but this vast expanse of water and seabed that lies beyond the national jurisdiction of any one country has no comprehensive protection.

In an effort to fix this, countries are meeting at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York until 18 September, marking the start of a two-year process to agree a treaty to protect the high seas.

This is needed because unrestrained and increasingly risky exploitation of resources threatens these huge ecosystems. Fish populations, for example, have declined by 50% over the past 50 years as a result of overfishing and Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

No man’s sea

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) guarantees countries the freedom to fish, travel and lay cables in the high seas. It also defines the responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the ocean, establishing guidelines for businesses, environmental protection, and the management of natural resources.

But technological advances are opening up the seabed to another freedom: extraction of mineral resources. Over ten countries, including China, Korea, Japan and Germany, are currently prospecting for mineral resources in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

The minerals and rare earth metals they gather are valuable components in everyday item....

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