Letter from the High Seas Alliance to the UN Secretary-General

HSA/Civil Society

His Excellency Mr. António Guterres
United Nations
New York, NY 10017

26th February 2023

Your Excellency,

As representatives of organisations that are working to preserve the health of our global ocean we urge you to send a strong public message to United Nations members that are currently meeting in New York to take all necessary action to deliver a new international agreement to protect and conserve marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction during this final week of negotiations at the United Nations.

This new UN Treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is a once in a generation opportunity for UN Member States to unite as a global community to arrest and reverse the rapid loss of biodiversity in the two thirds of our ocean that lies beyond the exclusive economic zones of individual States. As negotiations enter into the second week, expectations are high that all States will accelerate international cooperation and demonstrate the flexibility required to finally deliver a strong and ambitious Treaty, marking the culmination of many years of discussion on this issue.

Only 1.2% of the High Seas is protected from damaging human activities, a figure that is entirely inadequate to ensure a healthy ocean in the face of climate-related threats. Currently activities are unregulated or poorly controlled by different business sectors under a complex structure, which tends to place short-term economic interests before the long-term health of our shared ocean commons. This poor governance is eroding the ocean’s health and resilience, along with its ability to stabilize the climate, safeguard food security, and sustain the livelihoods of billions of people around the world.

Without this strong and ambitious new Treaty, it will be impossible to protect this vast area  effectively. It will also be a critical milestone towards achieving the recently agreed international  target to conserve at least 30% of the ocean and seas by 2030, which scientists tell us is the minimum needed to preserve a healthy functioning ocean.

Last year at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon you warned we are in an “ocean emergency” and that “we must turn the tide”. This is one of those key moments where we can turn the tide and international leadership is critical now.

As negotiations move into the second week of the conference we urge you as Secretary General to send a clear message highlighting to all States at the United Nations the importance of ensuring negotiations successfully conclude at the beginning of March with a Treaty that has robust, consistent and clear standards for human activities impacting the High Seas, and is ambitious enough to give our ocean the protection it needs for future generations.

Yours sincerely,

Rebecca Hubbard
Director, High Seas Alliance

On behalf of High Seas Alliance members