The United Nations is hoping a five-day UN Ocean Conference will bring fresh momentum to the protracted efforts for a global ocean agreement.
Some countries are holding up a global agreement on protecting the world’s oceans because of their “egoism," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.
Some countries - which he did not identify - won't accept that the world's oceans belong to everyone, he said on Monday.
“International waters are ours,” Guterres insisted, referring to all the planet's inhabitants.
The UN chief was with senior officials and scientists from more than 120 countries attending a five-day UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
Also present were activists frustrated by the failure to come up with international rules that might ensure ocean sustainability.
The UN is hoping the conference that got underway on Monday will bring fresh momentum to the protracted efforts for a global ocean agreement.
US climate envoy John Kerry and French President Emmanuel Macron are among those attending some days of the event.
'A crucial moment'
"The world’s largest ecosystem ... is still unprotected and is dying as we watch," the activist group Ocean Rebellion said.
Guterres said "significant progress" has been made toward a deal on a high seas treaty and that the world stands at "a crucial moment" for the future of the oceans.
“We need to make people put pressure on those who decide,” Guterres said, appealing for people to make themselves heard.
Threats to the oceans include global warming, pollution, acidification and other problems, the UN says. Potentially harmful deep-sea mining also lacks rules.
READ MORE: UN to hold first talks to save oceans
No legal framework covers the high seas
No comprehensive legal framework covers the high seas. Oceans cover some 70 percent of the earth’s surface and provide food and livelihoods for billions of people.
Some activists refer to them as the largest unregulated area on the planet.
The conference is set to adopt a declaration that, though not binding on its signatories, could help implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of oceans and their resources, according to the UN. The declaration is due to be endorsed on Friday.
But still beyond reach is a vital new international agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, also known as the Treaty of the High Seas.
That treaty is being negotiated within the framework of the United Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is the main international agreement governing human maritime activities.
After 10 years of talks, however, including a fourth round of negotiations three months ago, a deal is still not within sight.
A fifth round is scheduled for August in New York.