As explained, the high seas make up the nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean in areas beyond national jurisdiction; they extend outside the boundaries of exclusive economic zones and have few rules or coordinated management mechanisms.

The treaty, which would be the first of its kind related to marine protections, would address the need for a cohesive global system to coordinate the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and to account for the impact of human activities on the high seas, including fishing and shipping.

In addition, it would pave the way for the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and fully protected marine reserves on the high seas, which would protect key areas of biodiversity from extractive and damaging activities.

“The United Nations’ action today is recognition of the urgent need to protect biodiversity on the high seas. These ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction provide billions of dollars annually to global fisheries and shipping as well as ecosystem services such as carbon storage, and now the international community has reached agreement that the many diverse species that exist there are worthy of protection," said Liz Karan, director of Pew’s campaign to protect ocean life on the high seas.

“We encourage member states to heed the science and sustain the current momentum to finalize the treaty text no later than 2020.”