September 29, 2023

UN High Seas Treaty

  • The world’s first international treaty to protect the high seas was recently adopted by the United Nations.
  • It has been adopted by the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).
  • It has been adopted under the framework of United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
    • UNCLOS established an area called the high seas.
  • It is a legally binding treaty that aims at protecting, caring for, and ensuring the responsible use of the marine environment, maintaining the integrity of ocean ecosystems, and conserving the inherent value of marine biological diversity.
    • It will only enter into force once 60 countries have ratified it.
  • It is the first-ever treaty to protect the world’s oceans that lie outside national boundaries.
  • It is also known as the ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean.


  • It aims to place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030(a pledge made by countries at the UN biodiversity conference in 2022).
  • It aims to establish large-scale marine protected areas in international waters, which protect marine biodiversity in high seas.
  • Covers environmental assessments to evaluate the potential damage of commercial activities, such as deep-sea mining.
  • Strengthening resilience and contains provisions based on polluter-pays principle as well as mechanisms for disputes.
High Seas

Beyond countries’ exclusive economic zones, which extend up to 200 nautical miles from coastlines , the seas are under the jurisdiction of no country, and all countries have a right to fish, ship, and do research.

They make up more than 60% of the world’s oceans by surface area.

  • Offers guidance, including through an integrated approach to ocean management that builds ecosystem resilience to tackle adverse effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
  • Treaty provisions also recognize the rights and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities, the freedom of scientific research, and need for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits.
  • The treaty also considers the special circumstances facing small-island and landlocked developing nations.


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