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United Nations—Protecting the High Seas and Seabirds

The United Nations negotiates the first-ever high seas conservation treaty to protect marine ecosystems and minimize risk to migrating seabirds including albatross.

Only 5% of the world’s oceans are protecting my marine preserves. These reserves are almost all designed to protect near-shore marine environments in territorial waters. The open ocean, on the other hand, is left relatively unprotected leading to over-exploitation of resources and fishing practices that threaten not only marine species but migrating seabirds such as albatross.

The United Nations is now looking into new solutions to protect biodiversity in the open oceans. This month the UN High Seas Treaty began negotiations. The focus of the negotiations go beyond the determination of marine protected areas but also involve discussions of climate change, growing marine research, over-fishing, and the threat posed to seabirds.

As a lead up to the negotiations, a public vote recognized the albatross as the representative for the High Seas Treaty. The albatross was nominated above the anglerfish and silky shark—highlighting the complexity of the factors threatening biodiversity and linking land and sea.

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Laysan Albatross return year after year to nest on Midway Atoll, but spend the rest of their lives at sea. Credit: Gregg Howald/Island Conservation

Although this round of negotiations has come to an end, the UN will meet again in August and again in early 2002 in hopes of finalizing the treaty. For the closing remarks, Ambassador Olai Uludong of Palau remarked:

As we conclude today, may the Albatross guide you home and just as importantly may it guide you back to IGC3. The Albatross partners for life. May we be reminded of our commitment to this work that will have impacts that will have long lasting impacts beyond our lifetimes.”

While the UN discussions and negotiations continue through August, there is hope that in the end, marine and seabird biodiversity will come out with a big conservation win.

Learn more about the UN Negotiations (Sources): High Seas Alliance and Science Magazine

Featured photo: Black-footed Albatross soaring over the coast of Lehua Island, Hawaii. Credit: Tom Green

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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Midway Atoll conservation