Following ten years of negotiations, nations have reached a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans.
The High Seas Treaty aims to protect and restore marine life by designating 30% of the seas as protected areas by 2030.
After 38 hours of negotiations, the agreement was reached on Saturday evening at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The talks had been stalled for years due to disagreements over funding and fishing rights.
The last international agreement on ocean protection, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, was signed 40 years ago in 1982.
That agreement established the high seas – international waters in which all countries have the right to fish, ship, and conduct research – but only 1.2% of these waters are protected.
Climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic have all put marine life outside of these protected areas at risk.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s most recent assessment of global marine species, nearly 10% are at risk of extinction (IUCN).
These new protected areas, established by the treaty, will limit the amount of fishing allowed, the routes of shipping lanes, and exploration activities such as deep sea mining, which involves extracting minerals from a sea bed 200m or deeper below the surface.
Environmentalists have expressed concern that mining operations could disrupt animal breeding grounds, cause noise pollution, and be toxic to marine life.
The International Seabed Authority, which oversees licensing, told the BBC that “any future activity in the deep seabed will be subject to strict environmental regulations and oversight to ensure that it is carried out sustainably and responsibly” in the future.