Seychelles becomes the first African nation to ratify the High Seas Treaty

Date: 16th April 2024

New York, 16 April 2024: The High Seas Alliance congratulated Seychelles today for becoming the first African nation to officially ratify the new High Seas Treaty at the United Nations (UN) headquarters1, thereby joining Palau, Chile and Belize as the leading countries in the Race for Ratification2.

“We applaud Seychelles for demonstrating global leadership in protecting biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction by formally ratifying the High Seas Treaty. Although the High Seas sustains the greatest wealth of life on Earth, these vast international waters are the least protected areas of our planet. By picking up the pace in the Race for Ratification, Seychelles has taken the world a step closer to a new era of ocean protections,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Director of the High Seas Alliance.

Since it was adopted at the UN on 19 June 2023, 89 countries have signed the High Seas Treaty, thereby expressing their intention to proceed to ratification, and four have ratified it: Palau, Chile Belize and Seychelles3. A further 56 countries must ratify the Treaty before it enters into force and becomes the world’s first international law to mandate the conservation and management of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ) by enabling the establishment of High Seas marine protected areas, and regulating potentially harmful activities through comprehensive environmental impact assessments.

“Once in force, the High Seas Treaty will enable us to take united action to ease some of the human pressures that are driving the rapid and catastrophic decline in our ocean’s health. This is not only compounding the climate and biodiversity crises, but is putting lives and livelihoods at risk, and threatening food insecurities in Seychelles and many other countries around the world. To reverse this trajectory, it is imperative all nations put ocean protections at the top of their agendas and urgently ratify the High Seas Treaty, for the sake of us all,” added Hubbard.

The High Seas – the ocean beyond countries’ maritime borders – covers half the planet, is home to much of the planet’s biodiversity and plays an essential role in regulating our climate by absorbing about 30% of the CO2 produced by humans each year. This vast ocean area supports some of the most important, yet critically endangered ecosystems on Earth, yet a lack of governance has left it increasingly vulnerable to overexploitation. Currently, only 1.5% of the High Seas is currently protected.

Transforming the High Seas Treaty agreement into action in the water is a critical step to securing international goals to reverse the climate and biodiversity crises, including the goal to protect 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030, agreed during the UN global Biodiversity Summit in December 2022. 

The High Seas Alliance and its members are working with governments to secure the 60 ratifications needed for the High Seas Treaty to enter into force by the 2025 UN Ocean Conference in Nice, France.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. A majority vote at the Seychelles National Assembly ratified the Treaty nationally on 13 March, and the ratification became official on 13 April when the instrument was deposited at the UN. 
  2. Find out more about the #RaceForRatification and track countries’ progress on the High Seas Alliance Ratification Tracker.

Signing does not establish consent for States to be bound to the Treaty, but it does express the willingness of the signatory State to continue the treaty-making process and for it to proceed to ratification. Signing also creates an obligation to refrain, in good faith, from acts that would defeat the object and the purpose of the Treaty. Following signature, countries can ratify the Agreement at any time. The Treaty text specifies that this Agreement shall be open for signature by all States from 20 September 2023 and will remain open for signature at the UN Headquarters in New York until 20 September 2025. Once this period has past, States can join by acceding to the Agreement. Accession refers to the act whereby a State expresses its consent to be bound by an Agreement. This can take place after a Treaty has entered into force.

Ratification is when nations formally consent to the new international law, and this often entails ensuring that their national laws are consistent with it. The speed and process to ratify varies by country. In some countries, the act of ratification is simply a Leader’s decree, while in others Parliamentary approval is needed.

  1. Read more about the High Seas Treaty in this factsheet and FAQs.

MEDIA CONTACT: Patricia Roy: patricia@communicationsinc.co.uk

www.highseasalliance.org

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