Rebecca Helm, UNC Asheville assistant professor of biology, is leading the charge to call attention to protect the high seas – marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. With oceans covering nearly half of Earth’s surface, and only 1% of the world’s high seas currently under protection, Helm is raising awareness of the urgent need to protect this vulnerable ecosystem by calling on the United Nations to complete the construction of a treaty that will put crucial protections in place. Her message, published today in Science, and signed by some of the globe’s most esteemed scientists and marine biologists, is advocating nations to create a framework of protections that will conserve high seas biodiversity and promote sustainable and equitable use of our oceans.
In 2017, the United Nations determined the need for an international treaty that would provide protections and promote sustainable use of Earth’s oceans. Negotiations are currently underway and proposed to complete this year, however, there is an understanding amongst environmentalists that human actions are encroaching further into unexplored marine environments and there is a risk of damaging biodiversity yet to be discovered.
Helm is calling on nations to establish an ambitious plan of ocean stewardship with maximum protections that will protect the high seas for generations to come. She hopes to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create safeguards for marine life and valuable under-studied ecosystems is capitalized on, and soon.
“We have an opportunity to create a system that conserves biodiversity, while also creating an equitable environment for all of humankind,” Helm tells Euronews. “In the past, we’ve put in place short-sighted ocean stewardship policies, even with the best intentions in mind, that have harmed these ecosystems. You don’t need to look far to find instances where we’ve proceeded with ignorance.”
Visit protectthehighseas.com to make your voice heard in calling for the protection of our oceans.
Visit Science Magazine to read the official letter penned by Helm and her colleagues calling on the United Nations to protect our high seas.