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Steps Toward The Protection of The Oceans Steps Toward The Protection of The Oceans
by Rene Wadlow
2023-03-15 08:14:22
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On 4 March 2023, at the United Nations in New York an important step toward the protection of the oceans was taken with the presentation of a new  Treaty on the High Seas for the protection of the biodiversity of the oceans beyond the national territorial limits.  These negotiations began in 2004.  Their length is an indication of some of the difficulties of the issues.

The new treaty builds upon the 1970s U.N. effort on the Law of the Sea presented for ratification in 1982. (Link to an earlier Ovi article "Law of the Seas. Protect our Oceans") The decade-long 1970s negotiations, in which non-governmental organizations such as the Association of World Citizens played an active role, dealt primarily with the extension of national jurisdiction to include an "exculsive economic zone" under the control of the state holding the 12 nautical mile jurisdiction. The state in question could make financial arrangements with other states on fishing or other activities within the exclusive economic zone.  The 1970s Law of the Sea negotiations also led to the creation of a dispute settlement procedure as there were overlapping exclusive economic zones as well as issues of the creation of exclusive economic zones around national islands.  These issues have taken on strong political dimensions concerning Chinese claims in the South China Sea around uninhabited islands as well as tensions between Greece and Turkey.

The new High Oceans Treaty concerns the bulk of the oceans beyond the national jurisdiction and the exclusive economic zone.  The new treaty is a reflection of the newer concerns around the consequences of global warming, the protection of biodiversity, efforts against land-based polution, and the consequences of overfishing.

Non-governmental organizations again played an important role in the creation of the new treaty, even if there are still issues, such as mining on the ocean bed, left out of this treaty.  It is encouraging that there was cooperation among major governments on the Treaty, the U.S.A., China, and the European Union.  There is still work ahead, and governmental efforts must be watched closely.  However, 2023 is off to a good start for the protection and wise use of the oceans.


René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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