UN passes first-ever high seas treaty protecting marine life

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The United Nations has adopted its first-ever high-seas treaty "forging a common wave of conservation and sustainability in the high seas beyond national boundaries," according to a U.N. release. The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (BBNJ) is legally binding and was signed by the 193 U.N. member states.

The BBNJ was signed "to prevent a cascading of species extinctions," especially in the areas known as the high seas or ocean regions beyond national boundaries, U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Oceans Peter Thomson told CBS News. Approximately two-thirds of the ocean is considered international waters. "This is critical to addressing the threats facing the ocean, and to the success of ocean-related goals and targets," added U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

The treaty comes just one year after COP15, the U.N. Biodiversity Conference, agreed to put "30% of the planet and 30% of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030," through the Global Biodiversity Framework. "To reach that target, we'll have to establish Marine Protected Areas in the High Seas, and happily the BBNJ Treaty will give us the legal means to do that," Thomson continued.

The ocean faces several threats, including historic warming due to climate change and human-caused stressors including pollution and overfishing. "By acting to counter threats to our planet that go beyond national boundaries, you are demonstrating that global threats deserve global action," Guterres remarked.

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