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Ireland's Marine Institute Welcomes Historic UN Agreement on Protecting Marine Biodiversity in International waters

7th March 2023
Ensuring a sustainable future for our ocean is one of the great missions of the next decade
Ensuring a sustainable future for our ocean is one of the great missions of the next decade Credit: Niall Meehan

After more than a decade of negotiations, the countries of the United Nations have agreed the first-ever treaty to protect the world's oceans that lie outside national boundaries. The UN High Seas Treaty places 30% of the world's oceans into protected areas, puts more money into marine conservation and means new rules for mining at sea. This will help reverse biodiversity losses and ensure sustainable development.

As Afloat reported previously, the treaty was agreed at UN Headquarters in New York on the 4th March, 2023, where tough negotiations on the draft treaty have been underway for the past two weeks. The agreement reached by delegates of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction is the culmination of UN-facilitated talks that began in 2004.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO Marine InstituteDr Paul Connolly, CEO Marine Institute

In welcoming the Treaty, Dr Paul Connolly, CEO Marine Institute said: This is a historic agreement and finally offers a framework for governments to work together to protect our global ocean. Ensuring a sustainable future for our ocean is one of the great missions of the next decade. The ocean is our life source, supporting humanity and every other organism on Earth and is critical to our shared future. Put simply, without a healthy ocean, we will not have a healthy future. International cooperation is essential for developing the scientific research and innovative technologies needed to protect and preserve the ocean and all that it sustains.

In a statement from the UN, Secretary-General António Guterres said: The Treaty is crucial for addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. This agreement will counter the destructive trends facing ocean health, now and for generations to come. The statement issued by the UN also recognized the critical support of non-governmental organizations, civil society, academic institutions and the scientific community.

Noting that the BBNJ decision builds on the legacy of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Secretary-General commended all parties for their ambition, flexibility and perseverance and saluted Ambassador Rena Lee, of Singapore, for her leadership and dedication. “Ladies and gentlemen, the ship has reached the shore,” Ms. Lee said last night, announcing the agreement to an extended standing ovation in the meeting room.

Delegations will reconvene later to formally adopt the text. Team

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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