New International Pact Aims to Protect the Sargasso Sea—Why It’s Worth Saving
Five countries signed an agreement this week committing to the protection of the Sargasso Sea, which occupies a vast stretch of the North Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda.
The Sargasso has long attracted the attention of conservationists and scientists because it hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, including leatherback sea turtles, humpback whales, and bluefin tuna. The animals eat and take shelter in a seaweed called sargassum, which floats in massive quantities in the area—some say it looks like a golden, floating rain forest—and gives the sea its name.
Fishing and shipping traffic threatens to unravel this biologically rich ecosystem, on top of broader threats like climate change and ocean acidification.
The new nonbinding agreement on the Sargasso, called the Hamilton Declaration, is a first for the high seas.
Nations are entitled to govern the ocean 200 miles (322 kilometers) out from their shores. But beyond that, the high seas—which cover about half the surface area on Earth—are like the Wild West. Many nations use those waters for fishing or to extract resources like minerals, but no one country governs them.
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