High Seas

As we wind up Oceans Week, I have a new appreciation of all there is to worry about. Dead zones, depleted fish stocks, warming and acidification, plastic waste, and noise, nutrient and chemical pollution all loom large over the world's seas.

But there's also a lot to be hopeful about. It's a more promising time than ever for protecting birds, fish, marine mammals and ecosystems of the high seas, that area of the ocean that lies beyond national jurisdiction. The high seas constitute 2/3rds of the world's ocean and cover nearly half the planet, a vast ocean wilderness facing increasing threats from human activity.

In January, after almost a decade of debate, countries agreed to develop a new, legally-binding instrument supporting the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas. Negotiations begin next year to address key issues, including the creation of protected marine parks on the high seas, and the need for uniform requirements for environmental impact assessments among stakeholders.

Making sure the agreement is strong, effective and enforceable will be a huge challenge. But it is also a huge opportunity to advance conservation of a vast treasure-trove of ocean life.

I am excited and daunted, and most of all hopeful as Oceans Week 2015 comes to a close.


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