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After almost 20 years of negotiations and debates, the Member States of the United Nations have reached an historic agreement: the first treaty for the protection of the High Sea, a no man’s land often used for illegal fishing, has been signed.

Human actions in international waters will finally be regulated, starting at 370km from the coast and corresponding to two thirds of the Oceans (half the surface of the Planet).

The UN “High Seas Treaty” is a decisive step towards safeguarding our seas, which provides that 30% of the Oceans will be considered a “protected area” by 2030, while they are only 1%.

It is a “monumental victory” as declared by a Greenpeace International activist who participated in the marathon negotiations, because it would safeguard the life of the more than 230 thousand known species that inhabit the Oceans.

The main points of the Treaty also provide for limits to fishing and maritime routes and a brake on exploration activities, such as mining.

It is the third Implementing Agreement of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (in force since 1994) which aims to fill in the gaps and implement the obligations already provided for in that Convention, as recommended by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017.

After the editorial review and translation of the text into the official UN languages, the Agreement will be formally adopted and will be open to signature and ratification by the States. It will not enter into force until 60 States have ratified it.

Cosa si intende per "Alto Mare"?

The High Sea is the sea area that lies beyond the national Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – over 200 nautical miles from the coast, if states have declared the EEZ – and occupies about two thirds of the ocean. This area is part of international waters, therefore outside national jurisdictions, where all states have the right to fish, navigate and do research, for example. At the same time, the High Sea plays a vital role in supporting fishing activities, providing habitats for species crucial to the health of the planet and mitigating the impact of the climate crisis.

At the same time, no government assumes responsibility for the protection and sustainable management of the resources of the High Sea, which makes these areas vulnerable. As a result, some of the planet’s most important ecosystems are at risk, resulting in biodiversity and habitat loss.  It is estimated that between 10% and 15% of marine species are already threatened with extinction.

One of the treaty’s objectives is to reverse the decline trend in ocean health and the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems for future generations and for coastal populations dependent on the sea as a source of food and livelihood, income and leisure.

Perché questo trattato è così importante?

About 70% of the ocean is High Sea is not properly regulated. The marine life that lives in these areas is at risk of exploitation, extinction and is vulnerable to the growing threats of the climate crisis, overfishing and maritime traffic.
Because ecosystems on the High Sea are poorly documented, researchers fear that organisms may become extinct before they are discovered. This prevents us from properly studying the rhythms of biodiversity loss on the planet, developing ever more accurate forecasting models and accessing new opportunities for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

To date, the management of activities at sea and the protection of marine biodiversity are regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed in 1982 and amended by 158 Member States. This Convention has limits, especially on issues relating to the High Sea and the protection of biodiversity.

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