Why this treaty seemed utopian

Why this treaty seemed utopian

DThe high seas are to be better protected in the future. The member states agreed on this with the BBNJ High Seas Protection Agreement in New York. It’s a big step: In the future, at least 30 percent of the seas beyond the 200-mile limit should no longer simply be exploited.

Fishing, deep-sea mining and the use of genetic resources are now regulated more strictly, and large protection zones have to be designated. This agreement borders on a miracle, because the high seas have so far been a barely regulated area full of hope – and good business.

Not only large quantities of raw materials, manganese nodules, cobalt crusts, massive sulphites, but also natural gas deposits are stored at the bottom of the seas, which should help to satisfy the high-tech and energy hunger of the people. In the water of the high seas there is also a resource from which mankind can benefit even more: It is the knowledge of evolution that has been written into the genes of millions of living beings over the course of millions of years.

Bacteria and viruses, mollusks, algae, fish and marine mammals have learned over the course of their evolutionary history to survive well in the most extreme places such as the deep sea or underwater volcanoes. If the high seas were not protected and littered and fished dry as before, if their bottom were turned over and cleared with underwater dredgers, this knowledge would be lost forever. It would be treasure lost.

As recently as last summer, it looked as if the High Seas Protection Agreement would never become a reality. The gulf between the industrialized nations, which primarily benefit from the treasures of the seas because of their technological lead, and the developing countries was too big. The high seas belong to no one and creating a legal framework for 60 percent of the sea or 43 percent of the earth’s surface that is fair to all nations and also meets the demands of future generations seemed utopian.

But now the agreement is there, the will to protect the largest natural area on earth has been signed. 20 billion US dollars are now available. It is unclear whether the agreement will really lead to the high seas getting better and not worse off in the future. In a big study Last summer it was already proven that large environmental protection agreements often do not achieve their goals compared to trade or financial agreements.

It would be naïve to think that protecting the ocean is a one-stop shop. The work, the negotiations and arguments about what the protection of the high seas should look like in concrete terms will be anything but easy. Nonetheless, the agreement is a great success. And now you should be happy about that.

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