At the beginning of March, the UN member states agreed on the first international high seas agreement to protect the world’s oceans and the biodiversity there, after more than 15 years of struggle. The agreement now has to be reviewed by legal experts and translated into the six working languages ​​of the UN.

After the agreement has been officially adopted by the UN states, the individual member states can then ratify it. In order for it to come into force, it must be ratified in at least 60 countries.

The environmental organization Pew Charitable Trusts welcomed “the continued positive momentum for this new agreement”. The resolution of the UN General Assembly provides the necessary time frame for its entry into force.

Currently, almost all marine protected areas are in the waters of individual states. The High Seas Agreement envisages extending the protected areas to marine areas outside the exclusive economic zones of individual countries. This is important because more than 60 percent of ocean areas are outside of such exclusive economic zones. The agreement also stipulates that activities such as offshore mineral extraction must be preceded by an environmental impact assessment.

Environmental organizations had praised the agreement on the agreement as a historic success. They refer to the enormous diversity of species in the world’s oceans and the decisive role of the oceans in storing climate-damaging CO2. Global warming threatens the world’s oceans and their inhabitants, as do pollution and overfishing.