News that New Zealand will be an early signer of the Global Ocean Treaty is being celebrated by Greenpeace this week, who are calling it a win for nature, global cooperation and people power.

The historic Treaty, which UN member states agreed to in March, sets out the legal framework for creating protected areas on the High Seas, where activities such as commercial fishing, oil drilling and deep sea mining would be off limits.

Scientists recommend placing 30% of the global oceans into protected areas by 2030 in order to avoid the worst of the climate and biodiversity crises.

Greenpeace Aotearoa oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper has commended the New Zealand government’s decision to be an early signatory on the Treaty, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta due to sign on behalf of Aotearoa in New York on Wednesday local time.

“We congratulate the Minister and the New Zealand government’s firm commitment to this historic agreement”, she says.

“Signing the Treaty is a strong indication that Aotearoa will ratify the agreement – something that 60 countries must do for it to be brought into legally-binding force.

“The oceans are facing increasing threats from destructive human activities but there is a solution: putting large, ecologically important areas off-limits and allowing them to recover and thrive.

“This hard-won agreement is the mechanism to do this, and there is no time to lose. If we are to meet the 30×30 target, world leaders must act with urgency – ratify the agreement and begin making proposals for High Seas marine protected areas (MPAs).”

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Last week, Greenpeace released a report that illustrates the increasing pressures faced by the ocean including pollution, ocean acidification and commercial fishing. The report found that commercial fishing has increased by 22% over the past four years in biodiverse areas that have been earmarked for early protection.

Hooper says: “The situation is urgent. Things have been getting worse for the ocean, not better, but this Treaty and what it allows for is a ray of hope for the future.

“This year, countries have shown what’s possible when they work together for the good of our planet. And millions of people have been part of the campaign to make them take notice.

“We urge nations to continue in this spirit of collaboration, work hard to bring the Treaty into force, and start putting together MPA proposals. The five million people who have followed this campaign will be watching, and encouraging the strongest protections possible for the blue planet we call home.”

Over 5.5 million people around the world signed petitions calling for a strong Global Ocean Treaty, including 70,000 from New Zealand.

Last week Greenpeace Aotearoa launched a new petition calling on the New Zealand Government to help create marine protected areas on the high seas.

Recent timeline of Global Ocean Treaty

March 2023: UN states unanimously agree the Global Ocean Treaty text

June 2023: Global Ocean Treaty adopted by the UN

September 2023: Global Ocean Treaty opens for signing for a period of two years.

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