The UN Treaty to Protect International Waters Provides Greater Protection of International Waters
Recently 193 member states of the UN agreed to pass a new UN Treaty to Protect International Waters protecting our marine environment from overfishing, pollution, and other damaging activities.
Our Waters Are Incredibly Important
It is impossible to understate the importance of the waterways of our world. Our economies, societies, and governments are intimately connected by and large due to the navigation of our oceans, seas, and rivers.
This is why it’s ironic that marine environmental degradation is such a large problem today. Plastic pollution, industrial and agricultural runoff, oil spills, and the dumping of toxic chemicals still remain commonplace in many parts of our world. This has had extreme consequences on the marine ecosystem, as many species have gone extinct or are on the verge of extinction.
This is not including the effects of global warming, which have disproportionately affected the marine ecosystem. It is of critical importance to put into place measures to prevent the continued degradation of our marine environment, as well as restoration efforts to bring back our marine ecosystems to a healthy place.
This is why the UN recently passed the landmark UN High Seas Treaty. The UN Treaty to Protect International Waters will protect two-thirds of our waterways from environmental damage and overfishing.
What is Being Done?
Many nations have taken measures to prevent damage to our marine environments. For example, the United States has the Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972. The Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of pollutants into surface waters, including rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. The act also establishes standards for water quality and requires states to develop and implement water quality management plans.
The Clean Water Act has been successful in reducing pollution from point sources, such as factories and sewage treatment plants. However, it has been less successful in reducing pollution from nonpoint sources, such as runoff from agricultural fields and urban areas.
The United Kingdom also has a number of marine protection laws, including the Marine Act of 2013. The Marine Act regulates pollution from ships and other marine activities. The act also establishes a system of marine protected areas, which are areas of the ocean that are protected from human activities.
Other countries with strong marine protection laws include Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. These countries have all enacted laws that regulate pollution from ships, land-based activities, and fishing. They have also established marine protected areas to protect important marine habitats and species.
However, while these policies put into place by individual nations protect waterways under their jurisdiction, there have not, until this treaty was passed, been any regulations protecting international waters from overfishing, pollution, and other destructive activities.
The main mechanism they can impact is through the institution of international Marine Protected Areas and the UN treaty to protect international waters. These protected areas ensure that overfishing isn’t conducted, preventing oil exploration, exploitation, or other potentially risky activities that could damage the environment.
The UN treaty to protect international waters also includes a program for resource sharing among nations to fund the protection and enforcement of these MPAs. As well as these programs, there is the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments to keep nations honest about the status of the protection of the marine environments under their jurisdiction.
A Good First Step, but Enforcement Needs to Be Included
Serious measures like the UN treaty to protect international waters are needed to protect the marine environments of our world and are of utmost importance. We cannot afford to continue with business as usual regarding our damage to the marine environment; many people and communities continue to rely on healthy waterways to feed themselves, fund their lives, and live the way they have for generations.
While these new measures by the UN are promising, there needs to be genuine enforcement of them; otherwise, they will be ignored by individuals, corporations, and nation-states in pursuing their own goals.
However, this treaty is a good first step toward protecting our oceans and waterways fully.