Protecting and Managing the High Seas — Global Issues
ROME/LONDON, March 20 (IPS) – On March 4, 2023, the 193 members of the United Nations reached a major milestone. They have agreed on a treaty to manage and protect the high seas – the seas beyond the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the coastal states. The high seas are an essential part of the global ecosystem. They cover 50% of the Earth’s surface, produce half of the oxygen we breathe, provide habitat for 95% of the planet’s biosphere, are an important reservoir for carbon dioxide, and help regulate temperature. Earth.
The agreement on the new treaty, the culmination of decades of work and lobbying, is something to celebrate. However, a review of other international laws and treaties shows that enthusiasm needs to be dampened by realism. Often, developed countries, due to their superior technology and financial strength, are the biggest economic beneficiaries of open-access resources such as the oceans, atmosphere, and outer space. outside. They are also the worst culprits for damage from pollution and overuse. Getting these beneficiary countries to change their behavior has proved difficult.
The case of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) is an illustrative example. . Some provisions in Part VII of UNCLOS, concerning the high seas, work well. For example, problems related to piracy – maybe because keeping shipping lanes safe is of great concern to large nations with large fleets. However, provisions relating to fisheries work much less effectively.
Similarly, the International Seabed Authority was established to monitor and regulate the exploitation of resources on or under the seabed including oil, gas and minerals. However, no detailed ecological or environmental assessment is required; no royalties; and there is no claim of benefit sharing with poorer countries that lack the technology to exploit these resources.
The situation is even worse for waste disposal in the high seas, where there is almost no regulation. This has led to an increase in plastic and chemical pollution, much of which comes from developed countries. Even spent fuel from nuclear power plants and radioactive water from the Fukushima power plant disaster were poured into it.
The new treaty on the high seas aims to solve many of these problems. However, it is essential that developing countries participate fully in the drafting of detailed enforcement and enforcement agreements; and define liability, as well as sanctions in case of violations of rules and procedures. Developing countries should also continue to question the fact that the new treaty does not cover ongoing fishing in the high seas.
The high seas are the common property of humanity and all nations need to participate in how they are managed. The European Union has committed 40 million euros to facilitate the formal ratification of the treaty and its early implementation. This will certainly give them a big say in the development of detailed regulatory and institutional architecture. To combat this, developing countries must at least match this amount, with the larger developing countries leading the way in providing financing and technical skills.
Daud Khan Acting as a consultant and advisor to many Governments and international agencies. He holds a degree in Economics from LSE and Oxford – where he is a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Royal College of Science and Technology. He lives partly in Italy and partly in Pakistan.
Stephen Akester is an independent fisheries professional working in the coastal countries of the Indian Ocean for the past 40 years.
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