It was recently decided in New York to ratify the UN High Seas Treaty, which will aim to protect 30% of international waters by 2030.
GS Paper-3: Economic Development, Biodiversity, and Environment.
Talk about how human activity affects ocean biodiversity and what can be done to preserve and restore it. (150 Words)
- The world’s oceans cover 71% of our planet’s surface and serve as the earth’s largest carbon sink.
- By absorbing 93% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and roughly 30% of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels, they reduce climate change.
- Three billion people also rely on its ecosystems for their food security and financial stability.
- Currently, less than 7% of the ocean is under protection, and the high seas, which make up 95% of the habitable space on Earth and two-thirds of the world’s oceans by volume, are largely lawless.
- The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty, also known as the high seas accord, designates 30 percent of the world’s oceans as protected areas.
- This agreement ensures that benefits from the use of marine genetic material are shared and requires environmental impact assessments for new activities.
- Additionally, it makes it easier to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 by allowing countries to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) in the high seas.
- A 2017 study showed that marine reserves in national waters have on average 670% more fish, as measured by biomass, than adjacent unprotected areas, demonstrating the effectiveness of MPAs in protecting marine life.
- Flourishing populations of marine life in MPAs also spill over into fishing areas, resulting in increased catches for fishermen.
What Justifies Protecting the High Seas?
- The Ocean is BIG: o The high seas refer to the part of the ocean that is beyond any country’s jurisdiction.
- Biodiversity: The world’s oceans are among the last unspoiled areas left.
- They are home to a plethora of marine species, including some of our most recognisable and prized ones.
- They protect migratory paths and habitat that act as “rest stops” for whales, sharks, sea turtles, and seabirds.
- 3030: According to scientists, if we want to support robust marine ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide, we must conserve or protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
- Although there are thousands of marine protected areas spread out across the globe, they only make up a small portion of the ocean.
- Less than 1% of the high seas are currently covered by marine protected areas.
- Climate Change: Protecting the high seas through marine protected areas is important for our climate as well as for biodiversity.
- The ocean is a key player in controlling our climate because it drives global weather patterns and absorbs excess heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Ensuring that the ocean continues to play its crucial role in our climate system by supporting marine conservation and the preservation of blue carbon ecosystems.
- Reduction in Whale Population: Unlike animals on land, when a whale dies in the ocean, the carbon is pulled down to the depths, where it is stored.
- Whales also contribute to an increase in phytoplankton activity through a process known as the “whale pump,” in which they descend to feed and then resurface to breathe.
- Phytoplankton captures about 37 billion tonnes of CO2 a year and produces at least 50% of the oxygen in our atmosphere.
- Phytoplankton blooms follow whales wherever they go.
- Sadly, the great whale population has declined as a result of decades of industrial whaling, which has decreased phytoplankton activity.
How can ocean biodiversity be preserved and restored?
- Creating protected areas: Setting aside portions of the ocean as marine protected areas can aid in defending delicate ecosystems and species against overfishing and other human activities.
- Reducing plastic waste: Because marine species like turtles and seabirds can become entangled in plastic or mistake it for food, reducing plastic waste can help protect marine life from harm.
- Cutting greenhouse gas emissions: Cutting greenhouse gas emissions can help lessen the effects of climate change on the oceans, such as ocean acidification and temperature increases.
- Promoting sustainable fishing techniques: Supporting techniques like using fishing gear that reduces bycatch.
- A major step forward in safeguarding the world’s oceans and biodiversity has been made with the new Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty.
- Because healthy oceans are essential to the carbon cycle and contribute significantly to biodiversity, marine protected areas have advantages beyond biodiversity that also contribute to climate change mitigation.
- To ensure the treaty’s success, governments will need to remain committed and focused on implementing it.
- In order to maintain the health of our planet and its ecosystems, nation-states must make protecting the high seas a top priority in the coming decades.