« The Weeds

Policymaking on the high seas

2023-05-03

Question: What is the world’s largest habitat? Here’s a hint: It also takes up about half of the Earth’s surface. Any guesses? It’s the high seas, the parts of the open ocean outside any single country’s jurisdiction. And for the first time ever, there is a plan to protect it. 

Read More:

The largest habitat on Earth is finally getting protection | Vox

The High Seas Treaty, Explained | Reuters

The BBNJ agreement and liability | ScienceDirect Journal  

Credits:

Jonquilyn Hill, host

Sofi LaLonde, producer

Cristian Ayala, engineer

A.M. Hall, editorial director of talk podcasts

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
- Support for this podcast comes from Planned Parenthood. It's hard to imagine a world where we leave future generations with fewer rights and freedoms. Since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, politicians in nearly every state have introduced bills aimed at blocking people from getting the essential sexual and reproductive care they need, including abortion. Planned Parenthood believes everyone deserves access to care and with supporters like you, they can reclaim our rights and protect and expand access to abortion care. Visit plannedparenthood.org/future to learn more and support their cause. Hi, I'm Ben. I suffer from a condition called Rider's Block. It strikes when I'm at work.
That's why I choose Canva Magic Write. It works fast, generating texts in seconds, thanks to AI. Common side effects include increased productivity, compliments from coworkers, buildings of satisfaction. Now I can say bye-bye to writer's block. Ask your boss if Canva Magic Write is right for you at canva.com/designedforwork. Canva. Hello and welcome to another episode of The Weeds. I'm John Glenn Hill. Today, we're going to... To talk about one of the most challenging international policies we may ever need to navigate. It's not our relationship. With China, it's not the war between Russia and Ukraine. It's the ocean. Now, I love the beach. I love the sand. I love the salty air. I love a cute swimsuit moment.
Of course, I love the water. But a few years ago, I was at the beach with my parents and my mom and I were standing on the boardwalk, She turned to me and she said, You know, if you stare at the water long enough, you'll see something different. Something you don't want to see. There are creatures out there. Sea water makes you crazy! And look, a bit of caution -- it comes to the ocean is never a bad thing. There are definitely creatures out there. But the sea also embodies, probably even more than the Wild West, a lawless and sea-like seemingly ungovernable territory. The Intergovernmental Conference created by the United Nations hopes to change that. Earlier this year, the... UN finalized the language of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty. Yeah, it's a mouthful. The aim of the treaty is to...
Protect what's known as the high seas, the parts of the open ocean outside any single country's jurisdiction. And then UN member nations will have the opportunity to ratify it. The questions that we get are the ones that we get to answer. Races about conservation and resources and international relations are as vast as the sea itself. And we wanted to bring clarity to those murky waters, or get in the seaweeds, if you will. So I reached out to- Ox senior environmental reporter Benji Jones. Benji covers biodiversity loss, and he spends a lot of time thinking about and admiring the ocean and all its creatures. He began by telling me what's exactly out there. So there are many regions in the high seas that are particularly cool in my opinion.
I spent some time learning about a handful of different high seas habitats. One of them that I find particularly cool is this place called The Lost City. It literally is like Atlantis. People describe it as an underwater metropolis because in this part of the ocean, which is in the middle of the Atlantic between Florida and Northern Africa, you have... Of just an expanse of what are called hydrothermal vents. So in the ocean floor. Are in this region, there are essentially hot springs that are spewing water that's been heated. By volcanic activity and that water is really mineral rich and so when this hot water comes out of the sea floor it exudes me. - Structures that are in some cases nearly 200 feet tall, and it's home to all kinds of creatures that specialize in living in this.
Environment. Because it's so mineral rich, you have mats of bacteria that are able to convert chemicals into energy. You have deep sea octopuses like the adorable Dumbo octopus. So it's just a really, really cool environment. And a huge number of the species that live there Nowhere else. Actually, more than half of the species here in the Lost City, maybe nowhere else on Earth. Can I also say historically octopuses scare me because of how intelligent they are. Like they're very, very smart, but the Dumbo octopus is so cute. -They're so-- they look like cartoons. -It's just so tiny. -I know. They're incredible. -Yeah, I'm just like, Oh, this-- you're adorable. You don't scare me like your giant cousins do. And I think they have, like, st-- W-er tentacles or at least it looks like that in pictures. Yes, they're very, very cute. I'm a big octopus fan. There's another place in the high seas called the Sargasso Sea.
A really incredible habitat for wildlife. It's the only sea on Earth that has no land boundaries. It's bound instead by currents in the ocean. And it's named Sargasso because It's dominated by a kind of seaweed called sargassum. The sargassum is just kind of like floating in clumps and it creates these little micro environments. For animals to live in, and it's described as like a nursery for a number of different creatures. Again, there's a really high level of endemism, meaning a lot of the species that are there are not found anywhere else. - So that's what this sea treaty aims to protect. Can you tell us what this sea treaty is exactly? - There are all these incredible habitats that are homes for wildlife that you can't find anywhere else. They also support fisheries, so there is a fair amount of fishing in the high seas. So this is not just a wildlife story, it's also a human story. Seafood consumption is increasing.
Around the world. It's a really important protein, and so the oceans are important for humans too. But yes, so this treaty, which has been agreed to... By over 190 countries is essentially the first tool or mechanism that they can use. The world has to conserve the high seas. Right now, only about one percent of the entire high seas is protected in any way. Some scholars would say it's actually less than one percent because the existing protections are not super stringent. What this treaty does is it creates a way to actually start to conserve this critically important habitat. It's a really big deal just because so far, nothing has existed to do this yet. So what exactly does the treaty lay out? Like what are the countries agreeing to? Okay, so the treaty is more technically called the Biodiversity Beyond National... Jurisdiction treaty, BBNJ, which I know is a mouthful. The BBNJ--
The High Seas Treaty has a few main objectives. Gets the most attention and will potentially be the most important is just this new approach to establish protective... Areas or parks in the high seas. Another key part of this treaty has to do with environmental impact assessments. So it basically states that if a country or its companies are going to impact the high seas in any way, so if they're doing deep sea mining or commercial fishing in such a way that harm resources in the high seas, they have to complete an assessment that measures what The problems that might create, what the impact is actually going to be. So it's basically like a review, an environmental review of activities. And that's really important because it creates this level of accountability so that We know that activities are not going to necessarily be incredibly harmful and different countries can...
Weigh in and respond to what that assessment shows. And then another aspect of this, which is pretty technical, has to do with genetic research. Sources, marine genetic resources. Any natural environment on Earth, whether it's a forest or a coral reef or a habitat in the high seas, is home to lots of marine species. Of different species, many of which contain potential cures for illness. Or genes that help us formulate drugs. So... Part of this treaty is to say, okay, if a company finds a species... That has some benefit for drug development, let's say, and then ends up making a ton of money in developing that drug, the benefits, the monetary benefits... From that drug and the health benefits would be shared equally or shared in a
least to some extent among all members of this treaty. And so there's this whole part of the treaty about sharing genetic resources. And actually, I was just looking into some of the drugs that have been developed from marine resources and remdesivir, the antiviral COVID drug was Actually developed from a marine sponge. And so this is actually a very relevant part of the agreement, this sharing of resources, because there are resources that come from the marine environment. So those are three of the kind of key parts of this treaty. Anyone who watches international policy closely knows that it is very, it can be very difficult to get people all on one accord and agree to something. What were the issues that were just... Difficult to come to agreement on regarding this treaty? Because I mean, it took nearly two decades to make happen. Like what have the sticking points been?
It's been nearly 20 years in the making. The actual negotiations were like five years, but still it's a huge amount of time. And I will say, it's not totally surprising that it has taken this long. These agreements are totally nuts. It is a big deal. Of different countries all trying to agree on individual words, phrases. It's like an exercise in Tree to the extreme. And like literally, if you're in some of these rooms during the negotiations, you'll have text on screen. Imagine like 190 countries. In the same Google Doc. Like something like that. It's just totally nuts. And you can understand why it's important that everybody has a seat at the table because we're talking about... Legally binding agreement, this treaty is legally binding, and it is a big ocean habitat that a lot of countries depend on, so it makes sense that the stakes are really high. I think in this case, it took so long because these processes take long, like that is just one part of it. COVID disrupted the negotiations as well.
In terms of the timeline. And then there were several sticking points to your question. I think one thing that you see often in environmental agreements is this kind of general, this is a big generalization, but there is this divide between... Between northern wealthier nations like the global north and the global south where there are poor countries. The divide creates tensions around a number of different issues. One of them is related to money. So often you'll see groups of nations in poorer regions that have historically contributed very little to the problems that the high seas are facing, asking the wealthier countries to chip in more money to any kind of efforts to conserve the high seas. So if, for example,
Nations like island states need to monitor their impacts on the high seas. Monitoring takes money, and where is that money going to come from? Some of these poor nations want wealthier nations to give that money into a fund that will then be able to help capacity and financing some of these activities under the treaty. Related to that, I think, I think it's important to note that that is tension around what I mentioned before, which is just the genetic resources. So often it's the wealthier countries that are exploring the high seas, that are finding drugs that they can. And then market and sell based on resources in the high seas. And so you often see tension around the North-South divide about, okay, let's make sure that we're gonna share those. Sources that often are concentrated in the Northern wealthier countries, equally among all the treaty members. So that's another another big tension that that came out during these agreements and ultimately stalled the development of the final treaty, which is not yet ratified, I should say.
You mentioned that this treaty is not ratified yet. Um, and. As of now, you know, over 190 countries have signed on. And the United States is not one of them. How is the U.S. showing up in all of this? So what happens next is that the U.N. will clean up the text, it will translate the text, and then it needs to formally adopt the text. So the U.N. first has to... Adopt the text of the treaty that will likely happen this summer and then countries will The treaty in their own governments, and once 60 member states ratify the treaty, then it will enter into force. So we are still a little bit far from, like, full... Treaty in existence. But you are totally right that there is this question of whether the US will be one of the countries that ratifies it, Give it a seat at the table in implementation of the treaty.
Lawmakers tend to have an aversion to global treaties because they feel that it infringes on American sovereignty and potentially is muffling. Corporations or limiting corporations' ability to make money in some way. And so I think there is a question of whether the treaty will be ratified in the US. And there was this great story in the Washington Post about how a lot of just don't even really know what this treaty is after it was agreed to. So I think like in general, this is not a top priority for lawmakers. And maybe more so for conservative lawmakers. Biodiversity is in the name of this treaty. But is this about or is it more about resources and industry? Because there's a lot going on. I mean, there is the biodiversity protections, but, you know, there's fishing rights, there's the genetic material, there's mining. Like, it... Oh, oh.
And, you know, I really-- I try-- I don't know. We're journaling. So inherent skepticism, but part of me is thinks, okay, is this, is this really about a bottom line at the end of the day? I think it's both. I mean, I think the reason that this exists is because there is so much commercial interest for the high seas. To your point, the impacts of mining are a growing concern. There's been fishing in the high seas for a long time. So I think this treaty in part has come out because people are concerned that all of these commercial activities are... Grading the high seas environment and there needs to be some oversight in place to make sure that these activities are not continuing to destroy habitats out here. Out of sight, out of mind because no one is patrolling the high seas every day. And so that just makes an agreement like this even more important. So yes, can we
interest come into play only in that I think they are kind of underscoring the importance of this. Benji Jones, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me. So... Those are the basics of the BB&J. After the break, we drift even further out to sea with an expert in marine affairs and international relations. So it's, I mean, it's the most. Exciting year since maybe 1967 for politics around the international seabed. you - This broadcast comes from Planned Parenthood. Your body is your own. That's why Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring that everyone has the information and resources they need to make their own decisions about their bodies, including abortion care.
Who oppose abortion are challenging Planned Parenthood. Affordable, high quality, basic healthcare for more than 2 million people is at stake. Planned Parenthood believes that healthcare is a basic human right. That's why they fight every day to push for common sense policies that protect our right to control our own bodies. They also work tirelessly to oppose the onslaught of new policies aimed at interfering with personal decisions, best left to patients and their doctors. They won't give up and they won't back down. You can join Planned Parenthood in the fight to help make sure that the next generation can decide their own futures. The organization needs your support now more than ever. With supporters like you, they can reclaim our rights and protect and expand access to abortion care. Visit plannedparenthood.org/future to learn more and support their cause. you
- This broadcast comes from Planned Parenthood. Your body is your own. That's why Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring that everyone has the information and resources they need to make their own decisions about their bodies, including abortion care. Who oppose abortion are challenging Planned Parenthood. Affordable, high quality, basic healthcare for more than 2 million people is at stake.
Planned Parenthood believes that healthcare is a basic human right. That's why they fight every day to push for common sense policies that protect our right to control our own bodies. They also work tirelessly to oppose the onslaught of new policies aimed at interfering with personal decisions, best left to patients and their doctors. They won't give up and they won't back down. You can join Planned Parenthood in the fight to help make sure that the next generation can decide their own futures. The organization needs your support now more than ever. With supporters like you, they can reclaim our rights and protect and expand access to abortion care. Visit plannedparenthood.org/future to learn more and support their cause. It's the weeds. I'm John Blenhill. We've been talking about the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty. The treaty aims to protect parts of the Ocean beyond individual countries' control. By filling a gap in the current rules and reg--
governing the oceans, many of which were adopted decades ago. For more on this history, I made a call. - I'm Beth Mendenhall. I'm an assistant professor going on associate professor at the University of California, Of Rhode Island. I'm in the Department of Marine Affairs, but I'm a political scientist. My PhD is in international relations. No better set of qualifications for this. It's like she was born for this conversation. ♪ ♪ I'm going to say that everything I'm about to describe was settled in the 1970s and early 1980s in this United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. It creates all the basic rules for who can do what and what parts of the ocean. And the basic rule is that you always start from the coastline. They call it the baseline.
And the starting point for making ocean claims. When you're talking about the water column or the sea surface, so like the wet parts of the ocean, there's a couple of different zones that you claim for the baseline. So there's a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, US zone for another 12 miles after that. And then the big one is the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Coastal countries exclusive sovereign rights over living resources like fish, gives them the exclusive right to build structures like offshore oil rigs or wind turbines. It gives them control over scientific research. It gives them a lot of particular rights over resources and activities. But because this is the ocean we're talking about, it's not land, it's not divided the same way, you can't build walls. in those coastal zones, you still have to allow.
For foreign ships to navigate through. And so there's a lot of rights of access when it comes to. And also laying submarine cables for like telecommunications purposes. So basically the further you get from the coastline, the fewer rights the coastal country has. But the coastal country claims these zones based on the baseline, the coastline, and they have rights out to 200 nautical miles when it comes to the sea surface and the water column. The rules are different for But it's the same basic idea starting from the baseline. Everyone gets 200 nautical miles of the sea floor. But if you have a physical continental shelf that extends beyond that, so these-- Sort of shallow areas of the ocean that extend from the continental land itself, then you can make a claim that you deserve more ocean space, that you should have rights over more of the sea floor. A lot of countries have made...
Claims further out beyond 200 nautical miles. And we're waiting for most of those claims to be resolved by this committee of scientists that we created in the 1990s. Get so messy. I mean, borders are already messy. We see so many conflicts regarding it. I wonder, how is this settled? in the ocean. I mean, it's it's it's just it's it's literally a different landscape. Yeah, I mean, what I described is messy in itself. Like where is the low water line that you start from and you know what constitutes a physical continental shelf that allows you to make this extended claim but it's even You talk about places like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, where coastal countries are clustered pretty close to one another. So you might have two countries that
Are 300 nautical miles apart, and they're each making 200 nautical mile claims, so you gotta draw a border between them. In that scenario, it seems easy. You can just choose the halfway point, but it gets really complicated really fast when you talk about different shapes of coastlines, and maybe there's a little island here. Or maybe there's a history of one country doing a lot of fishing in one area. And so countries basically have to work it out with one another, but that. Law of the sea convention I mentioned, the constitution for the oceans. One of the ways it's really cool and really. Unique among international legal agreements is it requires you to settle your disputes in, if not via negotiation, you can go to two different courts or you can choose an arbitrator. You can set up an arbitral tribunal to resolve the dispute. That being said, there Exceptions for that dispute settlement and maritime boundaries are one of them.
Activities. Anything the UN Security Council puts its hands on is excluded from that. And so there are a lot of unresolved maritime boundaries. Sometimes countries like an unresolved border. Because it allows them to do what they want. They don't want to restrict activities based on a settled border. Like it for domestic political purposes. It can be useful to have the public focused on a particular If you're trying to get reelected, for example. So there's, you know, depending on the countries, depending on the region, the factors are different. But bottom line, there are a lot of areas in the ocean where it's kind of unclear who owns or controls or has jurisdiction over which part. - I definitely understand why some countries want to negotiate those boundaries, especially, you know, maybe fishermen in two countries.
They're both able to fish in the same area and they don't have conflict. And it's like, okay, cool, it works. But there are other resources involved. Really valuable ones, can you talk about those and who gets to benefit from them? There's a lot of really valuable resources in the ocean, but the two that have, I guess, been on people's minds. For the longest time, definitely since the 20th century, catching a lot of fish, but also minerals. It's like oil and gas drilling in your coastal areas, but there's also all these sea floor minerals out in the middle of the ocean. And when it comes to fish... A disputed area might benefit fishers because they kind of have plausible deniability. They can say, Well, I thought this was the area where we could catch fish. But when it comes to...
To oil and gas drilling or seabed mining, the resources are in one place. And so companies that are going to invest in the technology to access those resources. They need legal certainty. They need to know if we put in $5 million to build this specialized drill to access this resource that we're going to Be able to legally claim that resource. So there's more of an incentive to resolve disputed claims when it comes to seabed resources. But basically that The Sea Convention in the 1970s and 80s created a set of rules for doing mining in the sea. The areas beyond national jurisdiction. It's called the AREA, unfortunately. It's a very vague name. - I think of like a capital A and then like the little TM trademark after it. - Yeah, exactly. Whenever I teach about this, I say, it's called the AREA, but we can call it the International Seabed 'cause that kind of captures the idea of what it is.
If you wanna do seabed mining out there, you have to go through this intergovernmental organization, the International Seabed Authority. The reason is that the seafloor in the middle of the ocean, we decided was the common heritage of all humans. It belongs to all of us. We should all control it and we should all benefit from it. And so if you want to do. Seabed mining in that part of the ocean, you have to do it through this international cooperative forum. And when the profits start coming in, you will have to give some of those. Profits to the seabed authority which will redistribute them to the international community. And as a side note, that's the main reason why the United States has not agreed to participate in the Law of the Sea Convention. We haven't ratified it because the Reagan administration and many Republicans since Reagan really opposed that part of the agreement on sea-based.
Mining. I don't even know if challenges is the right word, but one of the challenges I have when it comes to the UN is, you know, how are things enforced? What do you do other than write a sternly written resolution condemning actions? How is this international? Maritime law enforced? Well, it depends on which part of the ocean you're... Talking about and who is violating a rule in the middle of the ocean, in the high seas, In the area, the International Seabed, it's almost exclusively flag state jurisdiction is what they call it. So every ship has to register in a country and you call that flagging in that country. And that country exercises jurisdiction and control over that ship when it's in international common space like the high seas. So it's good in the sense that the high seas
Is not a lawless place. Every ship carries a set of laws essentially with it. And there is one country that is responsible for enforcing the laws on that ship. But it's a bad thing. Thing because the ocean is very vast and some countries have low capacity and low motivation to actually enforce the rules. High Seas Treaty or overfishing or it really applies to everything you're interested in the ocean. But there's this phenomenon called flags of convenience, where essentially ships choose to register in countries that at half-week laws and low capacity and low will to enforce the laws. And there's no real rule preventing them from registering.
Where they want, as long as the country agrees to grant that flag, to accept that registration, then that's the country that has jurisdiction over that ship. So you know, if you get to the coastal zone, if you get closer to countries lines. They have more authority to do more enforcement. Even that is limited, especially if you get into a port. The port is essentially like land territory, you know, it's full territory of that country. So that country has the ability to exercise more jurisdiction. But on the middle The ocean, it's just the country that you flag in. There's some minor exceptions to that, but that covers almost every situation. next We continue our look at ocean policy with Beth Mendenhall and find out why... Maybe this shouldn't be called the High Seas Treaty after all.
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I'm code Weeds. Canva presents stories to keep you up at night. It was an ordinary work day until... The Singapore presentation is at 3am. The office was shocked. That's when we sleep. - Maya made it less scary with Canva. - I'll just record my presentation so Singapore can watch it anytime. - Record and present anytime with Canva presentations at canva.com. Designed for work. - We're back. With University of Rhode Island's Beth Mendenhall about ocean policy and what's known as the High Seas Treaty. Except Beth doesn't exactly love that characterization. Beth Mendenhall, University of Rhode Island's Beth Mendenhall, University of Rhode Island's Beth Mendenhall, University of Rhode Island's Beth Mendenhall, Calling it the High Seas Treaty is half right because the areas beyond national jurisdiction that it applies to
Are the high seas and the area, the area being the international seabed. So it's inaccurate, but it's also missed. Bleeding in a way that I think can be harmful because coming out of the Law of the Sea Convention. In the 70s and the 80s, the main principle behind the high C's is the idea of freedom of the C's that everyone should be able to access and use what's out there. But the principle that underlines the area is the common heritage of humankind. The idea that everyone owns and everyone should benefit from the resources on the international seabed. It's a principle that incorporates ideas of equity.
And so when the treaty was being negotiated, a lot of countries were saying, well, you know, it's freedom of the seas, it's freedom of the seas. Like all these resources that we're talking about, especially genetic resources from interesting creatures in the deep ocean, it was really easy to say, well, the High Seas Treaty is about the high seas and so freedom of the seas. But that principle of common heritage, a lot of countries argued, especially developing countries, should apply to genetic resources on the seabed. And so when you call it the High Seas Treaty, it really under-emphasizes the relevance of this other really important governance principle of freedom. Common Heritage. My perception of where the High Seas Treaty name came from is non-governmental organizations attending the negotiations as observers that are
Are there to represent environmental interests, community interests, scientific interests. You know, they're representing stakeholders that are not there necessarily to speak for themselves. So the participation of these non-governmental organizations is a really good thing. I mean, they coordinate. Many of them in this network called the High Seas Alliance. I started to hear them call it the High Seas Treaty first, and this is just one person's perception, so I could be wrong. But I think it about public relations and marketing and getting more popular attention to the treaty. And so there was a. And behind naming it the High Seas Treaty. But I thought it was especially unhelpful before the negotiations concluded because this debate over the applicability of common heritage versus freedom of the arts.
The seas was an active debate right up until the very last moment when the treaty was finalized. And I felt like calling it the high seas treaty was unintentionally taking a side in that debate. Being talked about in the same breath as the UN 30 by 30 goal. And that's this goal to protect 30% of the land and sea by 2030. And the US has signed on to that. How realistic is that goal? It is 2023. We are almost halfway done with 2023. - Yeah, well, of course the US signed on to it, so to speak, because it's just a goal. It's just like a voluntary guideline. It's not a difficult thing to say, yes, we agree with that. Let's all do that. Whether or not those--
commitments actually lead to 30% protection of different planetary spaces by 2030 depends on the concerted effort of a lot of different actors, you know, not just United States federal government. But as far as is it realistic, and the Areas beyond national jurisdiction that this new treaty covers, it's gonna be close if we get there. and if I If I had to put money on it, I would say we will not get there by 2030. And the reason is there's so much more to do before we actually get marine protected areas beyond national jurisdiction. The treaty has to be adopted. Enough countries have to ratify it. 60 of them do. After that, it's a year and then the Conference of Parties meets.
And then they have to come up with their rules of procedure, and then they have to form the various institutions in the treaty, like this scientific and technical body. And then countries have to put together and submit proposals for protected areas that then go through a review process and a consultation process, and then they're revised. And then the Conference of Parties, all the countries that have ratified the treaty, they have to vote in favor of that proposal. And so it's really likely that that could be, you know, five, 10 years before we get to that. Phase in this treaty. It could happen faster if countries really focus, if they really prioritize ratifying this agreement and getting other countries to ratify it. But, you know, the history of international politics. And especially the recent history around global environmental issues, doesn't make me very optimistic that
this treaty will achieve that goal in the areas beyond national jurisdiction. But the goal could be met within jurisdictions, whether it's on land or in coastal areas that coastal countries claim, like the exclusive economic zone. But again, that's going to take a lot of focus and pressure. That's one reason why I've been a little concerned about the reaction I've seen on. Social media and in popular media around this new treaty? - Yeah, everyone is very excited. - Well, and I even saw in some, what I would consider reputable news outlets saying that this treaty means that 30% of the areas. Of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction will be protected by 2030. And it's a mechanism to achieving that goal, but it doesn't mean that it's guaranteed that we'll get there. And like a lot has to happen if this-- Treaty is going to get us to the 30 by 30 goal. I think people want something to celebrate.
A victory and they want hope. And so, you know, we just need to be a little bit more, step back and ask ourselves, what did this really accomplish? And what do we need to do next to achieve our big goals around conservation? I'm thinking, Of these resources and historically there's a lot of countries that have been exploited that don't get their share of things or, you know, have seen their own resources depleted and other countries benefit greatly from them. I mean, that is... Essentially colonialism. And this does feel different because, you know, it literally is no man's land or I guess, you know, no man's sea. Wondering how that all shakes out. Like, do those resources get distributed, like redistributed to, how do you look at equity?
when it comes to this? And you know, should equity be a factor when it comes to these capitalistic endeavors? I mean, that's really not how the free market operates. So much to say about colonialism and the law of the sea. So I'll try to keep it short. Well, first let me say that this idea of sharing the benefits of. Resources. Legally, it only applies to the international seabed and the resources therein. Which is really mineral resources. The developing countries in the 1970s really pushed for this. It was part of their broader agenda to create a new international economic order. Developing countries in this coalition working together, they were newly independent former colonies. And so they had this explicit.
Motivation of colonialism, we're done with it. We don't want to see new forms of colonialism. We need to recreate. International law so that it's not a system that's rigged against us, so that it does benefit us, it is more equitable. And so the whole idea of claiming an exclusive economic zone off your coastline, people tell different stories about where that came from. Through African developing states, Kenya was actually the one that drafted the initial paper and brought it to the Law of the Sea negotiations and said, look, this is a way for us to ensure that coastal developing countries like African countries can control the resources near their coastline. Were really afraid of former colonial powers, or current colonial powers, that had more advanced technology, more money to spend, sending their boats over to the coastal areas of developing countries and just taking all the resources.
So that was an initial motivation for this system in the first place. But when you ask yourself, okay, well, who benefited the most from this news story? And it was new in the 70s and 80s of claiming big coastal zones just because you... Land territory, like you own the land or you have sovereignty over the land, then you get to claim the ocean. Well, if you look at a map of the Pacific, you'll know that you'll Oh, the United States has a lot of islands out there. France has some islands. Islands there and also in the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic, like there are still colonial territories control. I kind of don't want to say owned by colonial powers, and they're getting major ocean resources and ocean space. Because of that. And so when the United States cheerleads about all the marine protected areas we've created, the follow-up question is, oh, well, are they? Well, they're in our Pacific territories. So colonialism is still very relevant to the law.
It explains a lot of the international laws we got. It also kind of continues to explain some of the unevenness. Access to the ocean, control over the ocean. You do also have this phenomenon of long distance fishing, where particular countries sponsor through subsidies. Industrial fishing vessels that travel really far away, and they might be accessing fish in the-- high seas in the middle of the ocean, but sometimes they're accessing fish in the coastal zone of say West African countries or Pacific small island countries. And sometimes they're paying for a license or a fee. Sometimes they're bribing officials. They're fishing just outside the border, but they ultimately are accessing those resources off developing country coastlines. And bringing them back to developed, more advanced countries. So there are kind of.
Still neo-colonial dynamics in the law of the sea. I would say that that framework of thinking about international interaction. Of colonialism is still very relevant. What does it say about international relations and our current geopolitics? Because this is not happening in a vacuum. It's just not the sea happening. There are things, there's a whole lot going on here. A lot of big countries really don't have. Much appetite for international agreements that are formal and mandatory and that have accountability mechanisms. Where there might be costs if you don't meet the rules, more than just reputational costs, but actual costs, like there's some kind of penalty. That's just not really been a trend that major countries have embraced in the last decade or two. And of course,
Have major conflicts that kind of spill into these negotiations, like between the US and China. And US and Russia and the European Union, you know, might have some tension with developing. And countries that are their former colonies. All of international politics comes into play when you're talking to, especially about an area like the ocean, where there's lots of shared international space. I do think we need international cooperative action. And I lean towards more formal treaties that are more like we call it hard law that do have dispute settlement requirements and there are costs if you violate the rules. But it's going to take, you know, Political mobilization. People are gonna have to pay attention and pressure their governments to. Sign on to cooperative agreements, ratify treaties. And in the United States especially, we used to--
Leaders in international environmental lawmaking. And when I teach my students about that, that the Nixon administration was really involved in international lawmaking to protect the marine environment. You can see... Them being crestfallen, like, Well, why can't we have that now? Why can't we be a leader in this area again? And so I... I'm sort of hopeful that this emerging generation of young adults might put the pressure on because we need pressure. - Kirsten Hall, thank you so much for joining us on The Weeds. - Thank you. That's all for us today. Thank you to Benji Jones and Beth Mendenhall for joining me. Sophie Lalonde. Krishna Yala engineered this episode. It was fact checked by Anouk Dusseld. Our editorial director is A.M. Hall, and I'm your host, John Glenn Hill. I'm your host, John Glenn Hill.
Also, we have an email address. Send us your questions or any other policy issues on your mind, or I don't know. Use it to scream into the void. It's weeds@vox.com. The weeds is Media Podcast Network. It's not a scary shark because it's a filter feeder and it's. It's a filter feeder. Oh my God, its mouth is so big. I know. Doesn't it seem like he could get second sight? But it's not a scary shark because it's a filter feeder and it's. Mouth is wide open and like a big circular shape because it's just trying to get as much of that plankton through its gills as it can to feed.
And I'm not a marine biologist, so don't quote me for accuracy of the biology of the shark. But I love it because its lifestyle is just swimming near the sea surface where it... The sun is shining, mouth open wide, just trying to get the most it can out of life. - Oh my gosh. This so, it looks like it goes home. Home. - It doesn't though, just swims with its mouth open. - Sometimes you can find them alone, but a lot of times they aggregate and there'll be hundreds of them together. - Oh, they have friends. - Yeah, and they call it a cosmopolitan migratory species. - Ooh. - It's cosmopolitan 'cause you can find it in a lot of different places around the planet. In fact, it's supposed to be off the coast here in Rhode Island. I have yet to see one, but that would be. The best thing in the world. Oh, I hope you get to see one. I really do. Welcome to the world of games. Into the Canva guided meditation for stress at work. Impending deadline, generate Canva pres--
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Transcript generated on 2024-05-22.