As representatives of organisations that are working to preserve the health of our global ocean we write to urge you to take all necessary action to deliver a new international agreement to protect and conserve marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction when final negotiations resume at the United Nations on February 20th.
This month hails 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 our planet’s largest ecosystem when they reconvene to conclude the new UN High Seas Treaty in New York from 20th February to 3rd March 2023. 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.
Last year’s climate and biodiversity conferences heralded high-level recognition of ocean health as a critical, yet under-prioritised, link between our shared climate, biodiversity and sustainability goals. It is clear that to achieve those goals, we must galvanise efforts to protect our ocean from ever-mounting human pressures that are eroding the ocean’s health and resilience, along with its ability to stabilise the climate, safeguard food security, and sustain the livelihoods of billions of people around the world.
The Treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) promises a new era of unified, global governance of the two thirds of our ocean that lies beyond the exclusive economic zones of individual States. Without this Treaty, it is impossible to protect this vast area effectively. 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.
The new Treaty must deliver a set of vital conservation measures and tools to align global governance with modern scientific understanding of ocean ecosystems and the levels of protection required to safeguard them. Through a new, global decision-making body, various sectors and regional interests can be coordinated to ensure due consideration is given to marine biodiversity. This includes legal frameworks to designate marine protected areas (MPAs), including highly and fully protected areas, and strengthen assessment and management of human activities outside protected areas.
Only 1.2% of the High Seas is protected from damaging human activities, a figure that is entirely inadequate to protect ocean health and resilience in the face of climate-related threats. This Treaty is 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.
We ask you to work with all States at the United Nations to ensure negotiations successfully conclude at the beginning of March with a High Seas Treaty that has robust, consistent and clear standards, and is ambitious enough to give our ocean the protection it needs.
Iceland Nature Conservation Association
Azzedine T. Downes
President & CEO,
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
World Ocean Day
The Ocean Project
Law of the Wild
Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition
Founder & Director,
Asociación Intermaericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA)
Executive Director and co-Founder,
Dr. Iris Ziegler
Head International Cooperation,
Chief Executive Officer,
The Nature Conservancy
Chief Executive Officer,
Jorge Jiménez-Ramón, PhD
Marine Conservation Institute
Director, International Oceans,
National Resource Defence Council (NRDC)
Mirella von Lindenfels
International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)
Citizens’ Institute for Environmental Studies (CIES)
Global Lead Oceans,
Conservation Science & Policy Analyst,
Earth Law Center
SVP and Head of Environment,
Pew Charitable Trusts