United Nations High Seas Treaty

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Overview:

The world's first international treaty to protect the high seas was recently adopted by the United Nations.

Why in News?

  • Nearly 200 nations signed the document, officially known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty, after agreeing to its terms in March following roughly 15 years of discussion.
  • The treaty is meant “to prevent a cascading of species extinctions” brought on by overfishing, oil extraction, deep-sea mining and other activities with environmental impacts that occur in the high seas.

About 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 that aims at protecting, caring for, and ensuring the responsible use of the marine environment, maintaining the integrity of ocean ecosystems, and conserving the inherent value of marine biological diversity.
  • 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.
  • Highlights of the treaty:
    • 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 also covers environmental assessments to evaluate the potential damage of commercial activities, such as deep-sea mining.
    • The treaty aims at strengthening resilience and contains provisions based on the polluter-pays principle as well as mechanisms for disputes.
    • The treaty offers guidance, including through an integrated approach to ocean management that builds ecosystem resilience to tackle the adverse effects of climate change and ocean acidification, and maintains and restores ecosystem integrity, including carbon cycling services.
    • Treaty provisions also recognize the rights and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities, the freedom of scientific research, and need for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits.
    • The treaty also considers the special circumstances facing small-island and landlocked developing nations.
    • 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.

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.

 


Q1) 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.

Source: UN adopts 'historic' high seas treaty