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The NOAA Ship Nancy Foster travels over Gray's Reef The Nancy Foster, a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship, travels over Gray’s Reef, about 20 miles off the coast of Georgia, Aug. 7, 2019 (AP Photo by Robert F. Bukaty).

Bringing the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty Into Port

Monday, March 15, 2021

As President Joe Biden’s administration moves to restore U.S. global leadership on the environment, it cannot afford to ignore the health of oceans. It must spearhead the successful conclusion of negotiations on a U.N. high seas biodiversity convention, which are currently adrift. To bring this treaty into port, the United States will need to forge global agreement on several contentious issues. It will also need to temper its neuralgic opposition to legally binding multilateral commitments, recognizing that the treaty poses no threat to U.S. sovereignty and is deeply in American interests.

Although not entirely lawless, the high seas are poorly governed by a fragmentary patchwork of regulatory schemes covering everything from migratory birds and regional fisheries to deep-sea mining and pollution from ships. The biggest gap in oceans governance is the absence of a comprehensive agreement to conserve and sustainably manage marine living resources and ecosystems on the high seas, which are experiencing catastrophic declines as technological advances permit their unprecedented exploitation. Already, some 40 percent of the world’s oceans have been severely altered by human activity; only 3 percent can be considered pristine. ...

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