UN High Seas Treaty: a historic moment for the oceans

After a marathon session lasting almost 40 hours, United Nations member states last night agreed on the High Seas Treaty, which will protect international waters, about two-thirds of the ocean's surface. At present, only one per cent of international waters are protected.

The European Commission calls the agreement "a historic moment for the oceans". "We are taking a decisive step to protect marine life and biodiversity that is essential for us and future generations," said EU Environment and Oceans Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. "This day is the culmination of more than a decade of preparatory work and international negotiations in which the EU has played a key role."

Belgian North Sea minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) is enthusiastic about the UN agreement. "After more than 17 years of negotiations, we can finally create natural areas on the high seas," the minister said.

Van Quickenborne said the treaty is also "significant for Belgium, as our country, as the founder of the Blue Leaders in 2019, strongly supports protecting the ocean and conserving its resources". As a Blue Leader, Belgium will do its utmost to ensure the rapid establishment of the first nature reserve on the high seas.

Like other international conventions, the High Seas Treaty will have a secretariat. Therefore, Belgium is applying to host this important secretariat in Brussels. "This is not only in line with the commitments made by our country in recent years but would also significantly enhance Belgium's international marine position," Van Quickenborne concluded.




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