The High Seas Alliance (HSA) sometimes uses the term “High Seas Treaty“ as a short-hand for the BBNJ Agreement. HSA acknowledges that the scope of the BBNJ Agreement encompasses all Areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the seafloor and water column. This choice of wording is intended to ease understanding for broad audiences and does not convey a prioritization among the components or principles of the BBNJ Agreement.
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Conserving Marine Biodiversity: The High Seas Treaty Journey
On December 24, 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus Resolution 72/249, to convene an intergovernmental conference and undertake formal negotiations for a new international legally binding instrument (ILBI or treaty) under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable development of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Resolution 72/249, with 141 government co-sponsors, sends a resounding message of support for the need to protect this neglected half of our planet.
Since 2018, States from around the world have gathered at the UN for three two-week negotiating sessions. The fourth session, originally scheduled to take place from 23 March – April 2 2020, was postponed until August 2021 and rescheduled again in March 2022 due to the COVID-19 virus. The fifth session concluded in New York in August 2022. While it did not result in the adoption of a treaty, the conference saw significant progress.
On March 4, 2023, after almost two decades of discussion, including 5 years of negotiations, the world’s governments reached agreement on key substantive issues for a new Treaty to protect High Seas marine life. The new High Seas Treaty addresses many of the governance gaps that have plagued the ocean, setting out clearer ways to conserve biodiversity in the high seas.
Now, to ensure this hard won progress is not lost, the High Seas Alliance calls on UN member states to swiftly adopt the new High Seas Treaty and to then ratify it under their national law so that it can enter into force as soon as possible.