#TeamHB6’s Nichola Clark, who works to protect ocean life on the High Seas at the Pew Charitable Trusts, is part of a team of ocean scientists calling on world leaders and decision makers at the United Nations to negotiate a strong treaty to protect our oceans.

“The High Seas, which make up two-thirds of the ocean, cover almost half the planet, and yet only about one percent are protected because we don’t have the legal tools. But this treaty could change that!” says Nichola.

The final round of negotiations for a new high seas treaty is scheduled to take place in August 2021.

“It’s a big problem and we’ve got a closing window of opportunity to do the right thing! The High Seas treaty is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change how we manage our global ocean.

“If we want to be able to protect the High Seas and have better safeguards in place to ensure that activities taking place there are sustainable, we need a strong treaty. If we want to protect 30 percent of the ocean, which is the minimum target that scientists say we should be aiming for, we need a strong High Seas treaty. If we want to create a more equitable playing field in the ocean space, we need a strong High Seas treaty.

“The High Seas are a global commons – they belong to everyone. And even though they’re far from shore, what happens on the High Seas impacts the coasts, and vice-versa. The global ocean provides so many important services – every other breath we take is thanks to the ocean, but it also is an important source of food and income and plays an important part in regulating our climate. It’s under increasing pressure from human activities, and we have few tools to mitigate against these threats.”

A letter, co-authored by Nichola and a group of high profile scientists, including HB filmed faculty Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Diva Amon, and the lead author Dr. Rebecca Helm, was published in Science Magazine this week (June 4).

The letter has three key recommendations.

  1. We need a treaty that enables us to create a network of High Seas Marine Protected Areas, including fully protected marine reserves. (If you’re wondering which places we should look at protecting first, check out the Pew report here).
  2. We need a treaty that has strong standards and requirements to assess environmental impacts for activities taking place on the High Seas. (If you want to read some of the latest thinking on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ agreement) , check out this paper.
  3. We need the treaty to create a governance structure with the robust institutions needed to ensure effective implementation (And if you want to read more about institutional arrangements for the BBNJ treaty, check out Nichola’s paper here.

“We are hoping this letter is just the first step of many, and next up, we want scientists from around the world to add their names in support of the letter.”

If you want to add your name to the list of scientists calling on world leaders to negotiate a strong High Seas treaty to protect BBNJ, please add your support here.


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High Seas Treaty social media post


Blue Whale Photo: Cristina Mittermeier / Sea Legacy