Panama City, Jun 23 (EFE).- A new oceans treaty adopted this week at the United Nations headquarters in New York is noteworthy for its inclusiveness, a representative of the MarViva ocean conservation organization told Efe.
But Panama’s Tania Arosemena, that entity’s political advocacy manager, said numerous challenges remain in terms of aligning the different countries’ institutional and budget capabilities and ensuring cooperation to achieve the agreement’s ambitious objectives.
The accord, which seeks to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), which represent nearly two-thirds of the total ocean, “marks a milestone after all of the efforts over more than 15 years,” she said.
Arosemena added that organizations of different types, states, governments, civil society and even coastal populations and indigenous peoples were involved in constructing the groundbreaking agreement.
“We at MarViva want to underscore that achievement … this is an inclusive treaty, not only at the level of countries but also at the level of sectors,” said Arosemena, an attorney with a specialization in maritime sector development and a post-graduate degree in environmental impact assessment.
Marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, informally known as the high seas, are those waters located more than 200 nautical miles from the coast.
They cover around two-thirds of the ocean, yet only 1 percent of ABNJ is currently protected, according to MarViva, a foundation that promotes the protection and establishment of protected areas in the ocean, on islands and in coastal areas of Iberoamerica and the Caribbean.
Because they do not fall under the jurisdiction of any single nation, that organization with offices in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia says the high seas are an unprotected area that is highly threatened by overfishing, pollution and other human activities.
“The high seas are an asset that may appear not to belong to anyone but actually belong to all of us … the ocean is for everyone and we’re running out of time in protecting it. The high seas are that frontier we need to protect, make use of in a sustainable manner, because that will guarantee life on our planet,” Arosemena said.
For it to take effect, the treaty must be signed and ratified by at least 60 countries, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after the agreement was adopted on Monday by the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction that all states must act without delay to ensure that process is completed.
The agreement will be open for signature at UN headquarters in New York for two years starting Sept. 20, 2023,
“The call to governments is to not only ratify it but also to promote and support efforts to raise awareness about the treaty,” Arosemena said, adding that the goal is to keep “bringing on board actors … to implement it in an equitable, just, consistent and inclusive manner.”
MarViva said the agreement will ensure that the environmental impacts of human activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction are coherently assessed, guarantee a fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of marine genetic resources, strengthen countries’ capacity to implement the agreement and provide a road map for the establishment of marine protected areas.
“Each nation can have their own regulation, but the treaty is a means of establishing order” on the high seas, said Arosemena, an attorney with 21 years of experience in environmental law.
The expert said the treaty is an “important tool for assessing … the impact of activities that may be developed in the future (including) accumulative impacts.”
This feature of the agreement is particularly important given the emergence of new technologies that open the door to deep sea mining and more intensive fishing.
“Also vital and essential is the part about capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. In other words, we live in a world that’s surrounded by ocean, but most countries have their backs turned to the sea. We don’t have the capacity at the institutional level. We don’t have the capacity at the academic level, in decision-making, at the level of our populations. This is a challenge,” Arosemena said.
In that regard, she added that “essential work (must be done) to transfer that knowledge … from the nations that have more capacity to those that have less.” EFE