Indian Deliberating on Ocean Diversity Pact

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    • A delegation from India and other member countries of the UN are in New York to deliberate on a one-of-its-kind agreement to conserve marine biodiversity in the high seas.

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    • The agreement is expected to be the final in a series set in motion since 2018 to draft an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

    What are High Seas?

    • The high seas are the parts of the ocean that are not included in the exclusive economic zones, territorial sea or internal waters of a State.
    • The high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked. Freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by this Convention and by other rules of international law.
    • The high seas comprise nearly 45% of the Earth’s surface.

    Why do we need the Ocean Diversity Pact?

    • The agreement is deciding on the rights of companies that undertake exploration for biological resources in the high seas: do companies have absolute rights on any discovery or extraction in these regions or should they share their gains, in terms of intellectual property and royalties with a UN-prescribed body.
    • Typically the focus of mining activity in the sea has been for gas hydrates, precious metals and other fossil fuel resources. However with advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering, several companies see potential in exotic microbes and other organisms – several of them undiscovered
    • Lack of monitoring and surveillance means human rights violations are abundant in the open ocean.
    • There is no single global mechanism to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) outside States’ territorial seas or uniform requirements for undertaking environmental impact assessments.
    • The Union Cabinet approved a ‘Blue Economy’ policy for India, a nearly ?4,000-crore programme spread over five years. Studies on sustainable utilisation of deep sea bio-resources will be the main focus.

    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

    • UNCLOS is an acronym for the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea. 
    • The convention is also sometimes referred to as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty. 
    • UNCLOS came into operation and became effective from 16th November 1982.
      • India became a signatory to the UNCLOS in 1982.
    • It replaced the four Geneva Conventions of April, 1958, which respectively concerned the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the high seas, fishing and conservation of living resources on the high seas.
    • As per UNCLOS, the sea is divided into 4 parts:
      • Territorial waters
      • Contiguous Zone
      • Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
      • Continental Shelf
    • It defines a distance of 12 nautical miles (approx. 22 km) from the baseline as Territorial Sea limit and a distance of 200 nautical miles distance as Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) limit.
      • Exclusive Economic Zone is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

    Source: TH