In international waters off the coasts of Chile and Peru, the ocean is teeming with plant and animal species – some found nowhere else and many endangered.
Urgently seeking to prevent biodiversity loss in these waters, Chile is pushing to create a new marine protected area (MPA), and hopes to seal the deal during an upcoming summit at UN headquarters in New York.
With more than 6,400 kilometers (3,970 miles) of coastline, the South American country already has 42 MPAs covering about 150 million hectares or 43 percent of its exclusive economic zone, according to the Environment Ministry.
Now he is looking further afield: at the international waters surrounding the Salas y Gomez and Nazca ridges—two sea chains that flourish with biodiversity but are not protected by law because they fall outside any national jurisdiction.
Those parts of the ridges that are within Chile’s exclusive economic zone or EEZ are already protected, as well as part of Peru’s northern neighbors.
But 70 percent of the ridges—two chains of more than 110 undersea mountains formed by volcanic activity that collectively stretch over 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles)—are not subject to any conservation or management measures.
It is home to whales, sea turtles, corals, sponges, starfish and many other fish, molluscs and crustaceans.
“Every time we go to that area and take samples, we find new species,” Javier Sellanes, from the Center for Ecology and Sustainable Management of the Oceanic Islands at the Catholic University of the North, told AFP.
Sellanes, one of the few Chilean researchers who studied this remote area, describes the ridges as “a kind of oasis in the middle of a marine desert.”
“Protecting that unique diversity on the planet is very important,” he told AFP.
The high seas begin at the border of nations’ EEZs, which, under current international law, do not extend more than 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the coast.
Under the jurisdiction of any state, the high seas cover almost half the planet.
A 2021 study in the academic journal Marine Policy said the high seas areas of the Salas y Gomez and Nazca ridges “are threatened by various stressors, including climate change, plastic pollution, overfishing, and deep-sea mining that could to exist in the future. .”
As UN member states gather in New York next week in hopes of finalizing a long-awaited treaty on the protection of the high seas, Chile has already begun work on the area around the to declare his ridge as an MPA.
It could be a world first, but time is of the essence.
“It is important that fishing and other commercial activities are at low levels in this region’s international waters, so there is a time-sensitive opportunity to protect its unique natural and cultural resources before they are degraded,” said the Marine Policy study.
New UN High Seas Treaty
According to the Coalition of High Seas NGOs, this region contains cobalt and other high-value mineral deposits on the seabed that could one day be targeted by deep-sea mining.
“By permanently closing the area to fishing and mining and establishing a high seas MPA through the new UN High Seas Treaty, we can protect the Salas y Gomez and Nazca ridges for ourselves and future generations,” he says in an online report.
“While no contracts have yet been issued for exploration, none of the fields are officially closed to mining.”
If adopted, the High Seas Treaty will allow UN members to propose the creation of MPAs with approval by a majority vote. The document does not specify how protection measures will be financed or implemented.
As part of its campaign, Chile submitted a scientific report to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization in 2021, in which it emphasized that the benefits of the ocean, including food and climate stabilization, “are fundamental to life on Earth. ”
“The science is clear,” read the presentation. “If the ocean is to be sustainably productive, we must rebuild its health and urgently halt the loss of marine biodiversity.”
© 2023 AFP
Quote: The protection of the high seas off the coast of Chile depends on the UN vote in New York (2023, 18 February) retrieved on 19 February 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-02-high-seas-chile -coast-vote.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.