After more than a decade of negotiations, the countries of the United Nations have recently agreed to the High Seas Treaty.
Also referred to as the Paris Agreement for the Ocean, the treaty to deal with Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) was under discussion for several years. The treaty, under discussion, dealt with the ocean existing beyond the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
The treaty was being negotiated under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982.
There was no treaty for conserving the health of vast swathes of the earth’s oceans known as high seas.
Hence, a UN resolution in 2017 had decided to address this issue while setting 2022 as the deadline.
About the UN High Seas Treaty –
It is the first-ever treaty to protect the world’s oceans that lie outside national boundaries.
It is also known as the ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean.’
It is a legally binding treaty to protect marine life in international waters.
It aims to place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030 (a pledge made by countries at the UN biodiversity conference in 2022).
It will provide a legal framework for establishing vast marine protected areas (MPAs) to protect against the loss of wildlife and share out the genetic resources of the high seas.
It alsocovers environmental assessments to evaluate the potential damage of commercial activities, such as deep-sea mining.
It will establish a conference of the parties (CoP) that will meet periodically and enable member states to be held to account on issues such as governance and biodiversity.
The treaty also includes a pledge by signatories to share ocean resources.
The treaty is built on the legacy of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which is the last international agreement on ocean protection, signed 40 years ago in 1982. UNCLOS established an area called the high seas.
What are High Seas?
The high seas begin at the border of countries’ exclusive economic zones, which extend up to 370km (200 nautical miles) from coastlines.
Beyond that point, the seas are under the jurisdiction of no country, and all countries have a right to fish, ship, and do research.
They make up more than 60% of the world’s oceans by surface area.
Activities on the high seas are often unregulated and insufficiently monitored, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.