Diplomats representing more than 190 countries reached a landmark agreement on marine biodiversity protection Saturday night. The deal, 20 years in the making and which must still be ratified by the UN, will create an international body to manage marine life and establish protected areas in the international waters that cover nearly half Earth’s surface. “We only really have two major global commons — the atmosphere and the oceans,” Georgetown marine biologist Rebecca Helm told the AP. “Protecting this half of earth’s surface is absolutely critical to the health of our planet.”

Climate change, plastics pollution, and the fossil fuel industry that drives both problems, as well as deep sea mining operations and industrial agriculture and fishing activity, all compound to pose a stark threat to marine life. “The ocean is also — physically — our biggest ally in the fight against climate change,” Rebecca Hubbard, director of the High Seas Alliance, told the Washington Post. “Without an ocean full of marine life, it cannot continue to sequester and store carbon.” (Washington Post $, AP, Al Jazeera, CNN, The Guardian, The Independent, New York Times, Reuters, BBC, Reuters, Bloomberg $)