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Article summary:

1. The UN high seas treaty is a major achievement that offers some protection to the two-thirds of the ocean beyond national control, but it has deficiencies that need to be addressed.

2. The treaty contains opportunities for research in ocean science, including building research capacity in low- and middle-income countries and improving evidence available to decision makers.

3. The treaty cannot overrule regulations laid down by authorities overseeing existing high seas activities, such as fishing agreements, and cannot end current offshore environmental violations like farming waste and plastic pollution. Nonetheless, it offers a chance for scientists to support offshore conservation and rethink how we use our ocean commons in ways that benefit the majority.

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