World leaders call on all nations to swiftly ratify the High Seas Treaty at Our Ocean Conference

Date: 16th April 2024

Athens, 16 April 2024: TheEuropean Union and the governments of Belgium, Bermuda, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Palau, Philippines and Seychelles called on all nations1 to prioritise the ratification and implementation of the historic High Seas Treaty today, and committed to ensure it swiftly secures the 60 ratifications needed to enter into force. The call also came as Seychelles became the latest country – and the first African nation –  to officially ratify the new Treaty today, thereby ​​picking up the pace in the Race for Ratification2

The announcement was made during a high-level event, ‘High Ambition and Partnerships for the High Seas3, held at the 9th Our Ocean Conference 2024 today, the first international ocean conference to take place since the new legally binding Treaty, formally known as the United Nations Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ Treaty), opened for signature at the UN headquarters in New York on 20 September 2023. 

An important milestone for building political momentum for ratifying and implementing the Treaty as soon as possible, the event, which also featured an Indigenous leader from Rapa Nui and ocean legend, Sylvia Earle, celebrated the progress made on the High Seas Treaty and urged all world leaders to ensure its early ratification. Leaders from Chile and Germany highlighted the importance of states working together to create proposals for High Seas marine protected areas (MPA) now so that their implementation can be fast-tracked once the Treaty enters into force. 

The High Seas – the ocean beyond countries’ maritime borders – covers half the planet, is home to much of Earth’s biodiversity and plays an essential role in regulating our climate. 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 fully protected.

Once 60 countries have ratified the High Seas Treaty, it will become the world’s first international law to mandate the conservation and management of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) by regulating activities that may harm the High Seas and enabling the establishment of High Seas marine protected areas. To date, four countries – Palau, Chile, Belize and Seychelles – have formally ratified the Treaty, while 89 countries have signed it, thereby expressing their intent to ratify4

Transforming the High Seas Treaty agreement into action in the water is critical to safeguard the ocean from increasing human pressures and to reverse the climate and biodiversity crises, including the goal to protect 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030. The High Seas Alliance and its members are working with governments to ensure at least 60 countries have ratified the Treaty by the 2025 UN Ocean Conference in Nice, France, so it can enter into force shortly afterward.


“Palau is proud to be the first country to ratify the High Seas Treaty, demonstrating our strong commitment to ensuring this treaty comes into force allowing for a global network of marine protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This network, along with effective management of all activities outside of protected areas is absolutely critical to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis,” said HE Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau.

“The ocean represents two-thirds of the planet, and it is our duty to protect it. The BBNJ Agreement provides with vital tools to effectively manage and protect biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions. Chile is honored to join this call, as a country that has already protected 43% of its EEZ. Chile has completed the ratification process and became a member of the Treaty in February this year, and calls on all governments to sign and ratify it as soon as possible, for its early entry into force,” said HE Alberto Van Klaveren, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chile.

“The EU is making all efforts to ratify the BBNJ as soon as possible, and ahead of UNOC in June 2025.  We hope to gather the other  60 ratifications needed for the agreement’s entry into force as soon as possible. We have no time to lose if we want to achieve our global target of protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030,” said HE Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

“France is proud to be at the forefront, together with the co-signatories of this call, of the ratification of this ambitious and necessary treaty. The High Seas Treaty is among the most efficient tools we have at our disposal to address and mitigate the triple planetary crisis that humanity is facing – the depletion of marine biodiversity, global warming and pollution – in a fair, equitable and coordinated manner,” said HE Hervé Berville, Minister of State for Marine Affairs, France.

“Ensuring that at least 30% of the global ocean is highly and fully protected by 2030 is an urgent priority- the livelihood of millions of people depends on our success, and we can’t afford to fail. ECOWAS countries have therefore adopted a regional approach to sign, ratify, and implement the BBNJ Treaty to achieve this crucial objective, and we urge all regions of the world to follow suit,” said HE Iziaq Salako, Minister of State for the Environment, Nigeria. 

“In the midst of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ocean conservation, aligning our efforts with the urgent call made by world leaders today. As we navigate the ratification process of the BBNJ Agreement and strive to reverse the alarming decline in the health of our ocean, swift and collective action is imperative. Let us harness this momentum to ensure the vitality of our ocean for generations to come, and let us do it with everyone at the table,” said The Hon Mr Paul Van Tigchelt, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the North Sea, Belgium.

“For too long, we couldn’t fathom that our actions could cause significant harm upon the vast ocean, especially the areas far beyond the coast. But now, we’re aware that in just a few decades we have eliminated entire marine ecosystems. This treaty represents a critical step towards safeguarding the ocean by facilitating the creation of fully protected marine areas. We cannot and we must not wait any longer. I encourage countries around the world to rapidly ratify this treaty and act to protect the blue heart of the planet as if our lives depend on it… because they do,” said oceanographer, explorer, and founder of Mission Blue, Dr. Sylvia Earle.

“Increasing human pressures 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 security around the world. The leadership shown by these governments is essential for us to reverse this trajectory. We applaud Seychelles for formally ratifying the High Seas Treaty today, and urge all other nations to prioritize signing and ratifying the Treaty so that we can take the urgent action required to safeguard our ocean, for the sake of us all,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Director of the High Seas Alliance. 

“The new High Seas Treaty marks a milestone for international ocean governance and brings us a step closer to living in harmony with nature. As all eyes are currently on its ratification, it is key to ensure that everyone is on board. Towards this direction, we need to also promote more cross-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration, moreover to build strong partnerships with all relevant stakeholders, NGOs, communities and indigenous people, to support its efficient implementation,” said Ilias Grampas, Deputy Director, European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD.)
“The new treaty is a beacon of hope for the ocean. We hope the commitment and determination of the leaders who spoke here today will inspire other nations to swiftly ratify it so that we can turn that hope into reality,” said Lisa Speer, Director, International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).


  1. There are 193 Member States of the United Nations. See a full list on the High Seas Alliance Ratification Tracker.
  2. Read more about Seychelles officially ratifying the High Seas Treaty
  3. High Ambition and Partnerships for the High Seas was organized by the European Union and the governments of Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Republic of Korea, Nigeria and Palau with support from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Bloomberg Philanthropies Ocean Initiative, the High Seas Alliance, Mission Blue, Pew Charitable Trusts, IUCN and the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD). 
    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. 
    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. 
  4. Find out more about the #RaceForRatification, track countries’ progress on the High Seas Alliance Ratification Tracker, and read more about the High Seas Treaty in this factsheet and FAQs.

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