After ten years of fruitful negotiations, the High Seas Treaty was finally agreed upon following a marathon 38-hour discussion of talks at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Most of the Agreement was held up due to funding and fishing rights disagreements.
The Treaty is historic because it is the first agreement to protect the world’s oceans in 40 years, the last being the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was signed in 1982. It establishes a comprehensive regime of Law and order in the world’s oceans and seas, establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources (IMO, 2014). The framework ensured that international waters encompassed two-thirds of the world’s oceans.
However, since the Treaty was signed in 1982, only 1% of these waters, known as high seas, have been protected, leaving marine life in the vast majority of high seas vulnerable to exploitation from perilous threats such as climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic.
The General Objective of the High Seas Treaty is stated in Article 2 as follows: “The objective of this Agreement is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, both now and in the future, through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention and further international cooperation and coordination” (Nations, 2023)
After the Treaty is signed, 30% of the world becomes a protected area, boosting Marine Conservation and research-related activities. In this regard, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is ecstatic about this historic agreement “The High Seas Treaty finally allows humanity to protect marine life across vast swaths of the ocean. Its adoption will fill a significant gap in international law and provide a framework for governments to collaborate to protect global ocean health, climate resilience, and billions of people’s socioeconomic well-being and food security. We stand ready to assist with its implementation, “Dr Bruno Oberle, Director General of the IUCN (IUCN Statement on the High Seas Treaty – IUCN Statement | IUCN)
According to the IUCN, this complements other International Agreements such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and establishing a special fund to finance marine biodiversity rehabilitation and ecological restoration (IUCN Statement on the High Seas Treaty – IUCN Statement | IUCN).
Many other prominent organizations applauded this move, including the Pew Charitable Trust, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and the Ministries of Various Governments.
According to Nichola Clark, an oceans expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts who attended the talks in New York, the long-awaited treaty text is “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect the oceans — a major win for biodiversity.” (The Hindu, n.d.) (Nations Reach Accord to Protect Marine Life on High Seas).
The treaty’s drafting, which appeared to be in jeopardy at times, represents “a historic and overwhelming success for international marine protection.” “For the first time, we have a binding agreement for the high seas, which have been largely unprotected until now,” Ms Lemke said. “On more than 40% of the Earth’s surface, comprehensive protection of endangered species and habitats is now finally possible.” (The Hindu, n.d.) (Nations Reach Accord to Protect Marine Life on High Seas).
Commercial fishing, mining, and pollution from chemicals and plastics have long exploited the high seas. The new agreement is about “recognizing that the ocean is not a limitless resource and that it requires global cooperation to use the ocean sustainably,” according to Rutgers University biologist Malin Pinsky. (The Hindu, n.d.) (Nations Reach Accord to Protect Marine Life on High Seas).
“It means that all activities planned for the high seas must be examined, though not all will be fully evaluated,” said Jessica Battle, an oceans governance expert at the World Wildlife Fund. (The Hindu, n.d.) (Nations Reach Accord to Protect Marine Life on High Seas).
The High Seas Treaty is based on a 30 by 30 agreement.
The high seas conference was based on the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), held in Montreal, Canada, and resulted in a 30 by 30 agreement.
The 30 by 30 initiative is a global effort to protect 30% of the land and ocean areas. The article “A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Target” proposed this goal.
According to the article, the GDN aims for 30% of the Earth to be formally protected and an additional 20% to be designated as climate stabilization areas by 2030 to stay below 1.5°C. We highlight the 67% terrestrial ecoregions that can achieve 30% protection, lowering extinction risks and carbon emissions from natural reservoirs. Freshwater and marine targets are included here to extend the GDN to all realms and provide a path to a more livable biosphere (Dinerstein et al., 2019).
The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People then launched it in 2020, with 100 nations adopting this drive by October 2022, with over $5 billion in funding for the “Protecting Planet Challenge” announced.
The COP15 meeting of the Convention on Global Biodiversity agreed to 30 by 30 by 2022, which was then churned out in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which adopted 23 global biodiversity targets.
According to the Framework, “ensure and enable that by 2030, at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, coastal, and marine areas, particularly areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected, and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing indigenous and traditional territorial rights” (Joly, 2022).
High Seas Treaty on Marine Protection Areas- Global Atlas
Species that risk extinction and Need Protection
Large tooth Sawfish