A breakthrough has been achieved in the tough UN negotiations on an international agreement to protect the high seas. The UN member states had agreed on a text after a marathon meeting of almost 40 hours, said negotiating groups on Saturday evening (local time) in New York.

The primary aim of the negotiations was for at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans to be designated as protected areas in the future. In addition, procedures should be established to check economic projects, expeditions and other activities in the seas for their environmental compatibility. The agreement is also intended to place biological diversity on the high seas under internationally binding protection. Two thirds of the oceans belong to the high seas and are therefore largely unlawful.

The countries of the world had been dealing with an agreement to protect the high seas for around 15 years, and there have been several rounds of negotiations since 2018. Last August, a conference was adjourned without result. Immediately before the breakthrough in New York, there was also an agreement at another ocean conference in Panama: the participants pledged almost 20 billion US dollars (18.8 billion euros) for the protection of the seas. The US government alone promised almost six billion dollars for 77 projects.