A new United Nations treaty aimed at protecting marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, or BBNJ, is currently being negotiated.
While there are multiple treatises that commit countries to protecting areas in their own jurisdiction (200 miles/322km from shore), nothing governs the high seas or international waters.
This has lead to a situation where international waters are often like the wild west, with nations plundering the ocean across the board, most famously in September 2020 when a 300-vessel-strong Chinese fishing fleet logged 73,000 hours fishing in waters just outside the Galapagos.
During this time, the fleet pillaged international waters of squid, tuna, and billfish — all species that support various other parts of ecosystems.
The first protected area in international waters, “the Nazca Ridge,” was recently proposed by Chile. The area is a biodiversity hotspot, although sadly, being in international waters, it is impossible to protect without international cooperation.