Singapore’s oceans ambassador calls for urgent action following UN high seas treaty success

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BANGKOK: Singapore’s oceans issues ambassador Rena Lee has called on nations to sign and ratify a global agreement to protect the high seas as soon as possible, following a breakthrough in decades-long negotiations earlier this month.

Ms Lee, the president of the negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction - or BBJN, oversaw talks among more than 190 countries that agreed to the historic United Nations High Seas Treaty on Mar 4.

The treaty would allow the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and other conservation efforts on the high seas, ocean areas that exist outside national borders and have previously never had a legal mechanism to cover them.

This equates to about two-thirds of all the oceans in the world, where human exploitation, including overfishing, illegal fishing and seabed mining, as well as climate change, poses enormous threats to critical ecosystems.

With the text for the treaty now complete, a potentially lengthy period lies ahead as individual states need to ratify the agreement. This could take several years.

Ms Lee, who is Singapore’s Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues, urged all stakeholders, including governments and the public and private sector to take stronger and more decisive action to curb the damage occurring on the high seas.

In a written interview, she said: “We cannot just rely on the agreement alone. Action can and should start right now.”

“For years, our oceans have faced unprecedented threats. The waters and their marine biodiversity move freely across borders. The failure to protect the high seas will have far-reaching ramifications on global marine ecosystems as a whole, including waters closer to our shores.

“The BBNJ Agreement does not contain specific targets, nor is it a one-size-fits-all panacea for all the ills that face our oceans. Rather, the agreement provides the means to tackle these ills by putting in place the necessary mechanisms and processes, and I hope that many countries will sign and ratify the agreement as soon as possible,” she said.

“There was a determination among delegations that it was high time to conclude this treaty for the high seas.”

She also told CNA: ...

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