Today we will discuss Defending Our High Seas Against Pollution and Overfishing in our today's edition of Current Affairs. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.
For Prelims: General issues on Environmental Ecology
High seas, Coastal waters, Conservation of marine biodiversity, Marine protected areas (MPAs), Ocean resources, Tectitethya crypta, UNESCO.
For Mains: GS Paper III (Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, environmental impact assessment.)
About the High Seas, For a healthy underwater environment, Impact of climate change on the ocean, Measures for Protecting Ocean Ecosystems, Importance of the UN High Seas Treaty.
To protect the high seas against pollution, overfishing, and other forms of damage, government officials from 51 countries now want to negotiate the high seas treaty at the United Nations in New York.
Although the high seas make up more than half of the surface of the Earth and 61% of all oceans, only 1% of international waters are under protection. Comment (150 words, 10 marks)
About the High Seas
- The high seas make up more than half of the surface of the Earth and 61% of all oceans, and only 1% of international waters are under protection.
- Significance: The high seas and seabed areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (ABNJ) play a critical role in maintaining life on Earth.
- The High seas have long drawn far less attention than coastal waters.
- The current framework of governance related to the conservation of marine biodiversity in ABNJ is weak and is characterized by significant gaps.
- The lack of regulations establishing cross-sectoral marine protected areas (MPAs) and other useful conservation tools is one example of a gap.
Need for a Healthy Underwater Environment
- Nearly 3 billion people worldwide are supported by ocean resources in addition to coastal residents.
- Not just beachgoers and fishermen depend on the ocean. We also require it to produce sustainable wave and tidal energy, as well as to produce goods and even medicine.
High Value: The value of the entire maritime sector is $3 trillion (€2.8 trillion), or 5% of the global GDP.
Medicinal usage of ocean resources
- Some agents used to fight leukemia, for instance, are derived from a shallow water sponge called Tectitethya crypta, which can be found in the waters of the Caribbean.
- The poison of the fish-eating sea snail Conus magus is being used to develop an effective painkiller.
- Many similar possibilities have yet to be explored, but scientists see a huge potential for the treatment of diseases.
Environmental benefits of Ocean Resources
- Ocean life produces more than half of all the oxygen that is present in our atmosphere.
- At the same time, oceans hold 50 times as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as is at present in our atmosphere.
- By the end of this century, half of all sea life will be in critically endangered status, according to estimates by UNESCO, if ocean health continues as it is.
Impact of climate change on the ocean
- Ineffective Barrier: Our oceans' ability to store CO2 decreases as water warms, making them less effective as a barrier against increasingly severe weather events.
- Deadly: Scientists predict that many shellfish, including mussels and snails, won't survive if temperatures rise at their current rate. Ocean acidification increases CO2 content in the seawater thus changing its PH level, and imbalancing biospheres.
- Affects Economic Sector: The increasing acidity in seawater could also threaten entire economic sectors, such as the breeding of oysters and mussels would be affected.
- Change ocean currents: The rising temperatures in the atmosphere triggered by the burning of coal, oil, and gas also change ocean currents as the water gets warmer. This can already mean death for many creatures, such as corals.
- Coral bleaching: Corals live in symbiosis with colorful algae which help feed them. The warming of the water can lead to algae death, which means more stress for corals, leading to many losing their color, which is also known as coral bleaching.
Measures for Protecting Ocean Ecosystems
- Sustainable usage: We have to use the ocean in a way that doesn’t harm it, or at least only harms it to the extent that it can regenerate on its own.
- Overfishing: We discard 10 million tons of fish annually, enough to fill more than 4,500 swimming pools. In order to relieve pressure on our oceans, it is possible to prevent overfishing and processing.
- Construction of a sustainable sewage system: Currently, 80% of the world's wastewater is dumped unfiltered into the oceans. Even in the poorest nations, this figure reaches up to 95%. Building sustainable sewage systems would safeguard ocean ecosystems and improve water supplies in many areas, especially in developing nations.
Importance of the UN High Seas Treaty
- Prevent destruction: International treaties are one of the best ways to stop the destruction of oceans, according to the UN's environment program.
- The EU is pushing for the implementation of the historic 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework as well as an ambitious new treaty for the protection of species. This historic agreement includes the protection of 30% of the planet until 2030.
- Equitable distribution: The introduction of a mechanism that ensures the equitable distribution of ocean resources is being pushed for by 18 developing and emerging countries.
News Source: The Indian Express
Frequently Asked Questions about Defending Our High Seas Against Pollution and Overfishing
Why are the high seas important?
The high seas cover more than half of the earth's surface and 61% of all oceans, but only 1% of international waters are protected. The high seas and seabed areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (ABNJ) play a critical role in maintaining life on Earth.
Are the high seas protected?
The high seas have long drawn far less attention than coastal waters. The current framework of governance related to the conservation of marine biodiversity in ABNJ is weak and characterized by significant gaps. The lack of regulations establishing cross-sectoral marine protected areas (MPAs) and other useful conservation tools is one example of a gap.
How can we reduce sea pollution?
We have to use the ocean in a way that doesn’t harm it, or at least only harms it to the extent that it can regenerate on its own. In order to relieve pressure on our oceans, it is possible to prevent overfishing and processing. Additionally building sustainable sewage systems would safeguard ocean ecosystems and improve water supplies in many areas, especially in developing nations.
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