There’s hope yet for Planet Earth. Representatives of 70 nations along with oil companies and major shipping lines have agreed in principle on a plan to stabilize oceans, limit exploitation and preserve habitats for marine life. That might not seem like such a big deal for those in landlocked states, but there’s not a place on Earth that doesn’t depend one way or another on the health of the world’s oceans and the abundance they provide. And they are dying rapidly, threatening to take the rest of the world with them.

It’s remarkable in itself that U.N. members – who rarely agree on anything – have been able to reach a framework for protecting the oceans from further man-made harm. The oceanic areas mapped out for protection belong to no country. That means no country has an automatic right to exploit marine life or mineral riches beneath the sea floor. Conversely, no nation has an automatic right to tell any other nations what they may or may not do in an area where no nation holds jurisdiction. That’s why the only way to protect the oceans is for all nations to agree that this is necessary for the good of the world.

A version of this editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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