Namibia supports historic ocean treaty

Jemimah Ndebele
The signing of an historic, legally binding international high seas treaty to protect ocean biodiversity has resulted in Namibia amending its goals in support of the treaty.The UN High Seas Treaty was signed on 4 March, after two weeks of intense negotiations at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, which ended in a mammoth final session of more than 36 hours – but it has been two decades in the making.

The agreement gives governments the means to create and oversee reserves for the preservation of the biodiversity of the oceans, with the main aim of placing 30% of the high seas into protected areas by 2030.

Working to reach the goal

According to the UN, only 1.2% of international waters are protected, and only 0.8% are identified as “highly protected.” “The treaty is for the high seas (international waters) and not for exclusive economic zones (EEZs), which Namibian waters fall under. As part of the UN countries, Namibia aims to increase the current protection of EEZs, which is 1.7% (our marine protected areas), to 15%. The country will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the goal is reached,” Uaripi Katjiukua, the ministry of fisheries and marine resources public relations officer, said.

Transparent management

Additionally, the historic treaty includes a promise by signatories to share ocean resources as well as environmental assessments to assess the potential harm of commercial activities like deep sea mining before such activities begin. “This is a sign that in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics,” Laura Meller, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic, said in a statement.

The UN Ocean Treaty aims to fill those gaps by providing the legal force to create and manage marine protected areas in international waters. Experts say this will be vital for meeting the global biodiversity pledges nations made at COP15, the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal, Canada, in December.