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News Currents Sr.
A current events product that introduces adults to the world around them in a unique and engaging way.
Story Text | International News
U.N. countries agree to historic ocean protection treaty
“High seas” make up around 60 percent of our oceans.
In early March, members of the United Nations, or U.N., reached an agreement to create a new treaty to protect Earth’s oceans. Does anyone know what a treaty is? (A formal agreement between countries.) 200 countries agreed to this quote, “high seas treaty.” The goal of the treaty is to help protect animal life in international waters. While the final details of the treaty were hammered out over two weeks, the ideas behind the deal have been in the works for almost 20 years. Why do you think it took so long to get nations to agree to this treaty?
The treaty’s main goal is to protect wildlife in parts of the ocean known as “high seas.” Countries usually control the water and seafloor 200 miles off their coasts. The remaining ocean waters are considered “high seas.” High seas make up about 60 percent of our oceans. These parts of the ocean aren’t controlled by any one country. As a result, only about 1.2 percent of these areas are protected. Can you think of other ways to protect the animals that live in international waters?
Thanks to the treaty, new marine protected areas will be created around the world. You can see two examples of marine protected areas on the screen. These are a lot like national parks, but for underwater ecosystems. These areas will be legally protected from fishing, deep sea mining, and pollution. Now, the U.N. has the difficult task of putting this treaty into practice to help protect Earth’s oceans long into the future. Do you think this treaty will help? Why or why not?
Right now, our oceans face three main threats. From the words on the screen, what are they? (Climate change, plastic pollution, and overfishing.) The largest and hardest to address is climate change. Can anyone explain what climate change is in a few sentences? (The global temperature rising due to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.) Warming water temperatures make it harder for certain underwater animals to survive. Coral reefs for example have been hit hard by climate change. Reefs are important underwater habitats for millions of animals around the world. But scientists say they could disappear by 2100 if climate change isn’t addressed.
Plastic pollution is also harming underwater animals. Research shows that humans toss 14 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year. Why is this a problem? (Plastic takes a long, long time to break down naturally, so this plastic could stay in the ocean for hundreds of years.) Animals are harmed by this plastic when they eat it or become stuck in it. Studies show that around 1 million underwater animals are killed by plastic every year.
Lastly, overfishing is causing damage to animal populations in our oceans. What is overfishing? (Removing too many fish from a body of water, resulting in the number of fish going down.) One study found that overfishing has caused ocean animal populations to go down by almost 50 percent between 1970 and 2012. But, while these threats are serious challenges, the U.N.’s high seas treaty is a step toward keeping our oceans healthy for generations.
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