On 4 March 2023, history was made when the world’s governments finalized a brand new United Nations Treaty that will protect marine life in half the planet that makes up the High Seas – the immense ocean area that lies beyond countries’ national waters.
On 19 June 2023, the final High Seas Treaty* text was formally adopted.
For the High Seas Treaty to have an impact on the water, it must be signed and ratified by at least 60 countries so it can enter into force and become binding international law.
The more countries that ratify the Treaty, the more effective it will be.
The Race for Ratification is on.
The High Seas Alliance calls on governments to fast-track ratification so the Treaty comes into force in 2025.
The High Seas Treaty opens for signature at the United Nations on 20 September 2023 and will remain open for two years. By signing, governments mark their commitment to ratify the Treaty.
The ratification process happens nationally. Once governments have formally consented to the new international law, they need to ensure their own domestic laws are consistent with it.
The 60th country to ratify will trigger a 120-day countdown, after which the High Seas Treaty will enter into force. Governments that have ratified the Treaty will meet regularly to agree urgent measures to protect High Seas life, such as establishing marine protected areas and ensuring transparent environmental impact assessments of potentially harmful activities.
* 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.