Palau has become the first country to officially ratify the Global Ocean Treaty, in a move that Greenpeace Aotearoa says sets down a challenge for New Zealand to follow suit and back meaningful ocean protection.

A vital tool to reverse the ocean crisis, the Treaty is the most significant multilateral environmental deal since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. New Zealand was one of 84 countries to sign the Treaty after it was adopted by the UN in June last year. To pass into law, it must now be legally ratified by at least 60 countries.

“We are thrilled to see Palau leading the ratification process demonstrating that it can be done and paving the way for the creation of a network of global ocean sanctuaries – including in the Pacific,” says Greenpeace Aotearoa oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper.

“Bringing the Global Ocean Treaty to life will mean protection for a vast array of marine life from coral reefs to humpback whales and seabirds like the antipodean albatross.

“Pacific nations continue to demonstrate global leadership from the frontlines of the climate and biodiversity crisis. Palau has already taken a stand against deep sea mining and has now become the first country to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty. This sends a strong message to other countries in the region, including the New Zealand government, that the time to protect the ocean and all the life it supports is now.

“It was clear during the Treaty negotiations that Pacific states want urgent and ambitious action to protect the oceans that surround them. Palau’s decision to ratify the Treaty should be a clear signal to New Zealand that to be the good Pacific neighbour they claim to be, they must ratify the Global Oceans Treaty and back the creation of urgently needed protected areas on the high seas.”

Once it enters into force, the Treaty will be a crucial tool for creating vast ocean sanctuaries covering at least 30% of the oceans. Palau has become the first country to officially ratify the Treaty by depositing its ratification with the UN but other countries are beginning the ratification process. Last week, the Chilean Senate approved the ratification of the UN Ocean Treaty unanimously.

Says Hooper: “New Zealand was a champion of the Treaty and an early signer. Over 5.5 million people around the world signed a petition calling for the Treaty and 70,000 of them were from New Zealand. We call on the New Zealand Government to commit to backing ocean protection, ratify the Treaty and get on with the work of establishing marine protected areas on the high seas.”

PETITION: Create global ocean sanctuaries

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