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'Time is not on our side': Countries urged to hurry up and ratify treaty to protect polluted oceans

The treaty, which took 15 years to be approved, aims to protect marine ecosystems that are vital to humanity.

OCEAN CONSERVATIONISTS HAVE called for countries to speed up their ratification of a treaty to protect the high seas, a year after the historic text was approved by UN member states.

The treaty, which took 15 years to be approved, aims to protect marine ecosystems that are vital to humanity but under threat by pollution.

Member countries of the United Nations finalised it in March last year before formally adopting it in June.

Since then, it has been signed by 85 states but ratified by only two: Palau and Chile. It needs to be ratified by 60 before it can go into effect.

“Other countries have started their ratification processes but are moving too slowly,” said Greenpeace campaigner Laura Meller in a statement.

“Many governments want to present themselves as ocean champions — we expect them to follow in Chile and Palau’s footsteps and bring the treaty to life, so that the real work to protect the oceans can start.”

Non-governmental organizations still hope 60 countries can ratify the treaty by 2025.

“We welcome the progress made in the global Race for Ratification of the High Seas Treaty over the past year,” said Rebecca Hubbard, director of the NGO coalition High Seas Alliance.

The treaty has given “hope to citizens around the world that leaders will act. Yet time is not on our side,” she added.

The high seas are defined as the ocean area starting beyond countries’ exclusive economic zones or 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) off coastlines, which in total covers nearly half the planet.

A key tool in the treaty will be the ability to create protected marine areas in international waters. Only around 1% is currently protected by any sort of conservation measures. 

Oceans are critical for the health of the planet, protecting biodiversity that supports half of the oxygen breathed by land life. The oceans are also critical to limiting climate change by helping to absorb greenhouse gas emissions.

© AFP 2024

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