UN Ocean Agreement signed after marathon talks and decades of negotiations

After 15 years of deadlocked talks, more than 100 countries on Saturday reached a historic deal to protect the high seas, a long-awaited move environmental groups say will help reverse the loss of marine biodiversity from climate change and overfishing and ensure sustainable development.

The legally binding UN treaty to conserve and ensure the sustainable use of ocean biodiversity was finally agreed after five lengthy rounds of UN-led negotiations that ended in New York on Saturday, a day after the original deadline.

“The ship has reached shore,” said UN conference president Rena Lee after a marathon of the last round of talks lasted 38 hours.

The treaty is seen as a crucial part of the global effort to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by the end of the decade, a goal known as “30 by 30,” agreed in Montreal in December.

“Today the world has come together to protect the ocean for the sake of our children and grandchildren,” Monica Medina, deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying New York Times.

“We are leaving the ability to create protected areas on the high seas and meet the ambitious goal of conserving 30 percent of the oceans by 2030.”

Economic interests have been a major sticking point during the latest round of negotiations, which began on February 20, in which developing countries demanded a larger share of the ‘blue economy’ spoils, including technology transfers.

An agreement on sharing the benefits of “marine genetic resources” used in sectors such as biotechnology also remained a contentious issue that protracted the talks.

According to Greenpeace, 11 million square kilometers of ocean must be protected every year by 2030 to reach the goal.

Few of the high seas are currently protected, with pollution, acidification and overfishing posing growing threats.

“Countries need to officially adopt the treaty and ratify it as soon as possible to put it into effect, and then provide the fully protected marine protected areas that our planet needs,” said Laura Meller, an oceans activist with Greenpeace who is involved in the participated in talks.

“The clock is still ticking to deliver 30-30. We have half a decade left and we cannot be complacent.

Additional reporting by agencies

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