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Sansad TV: Perspective- High Seas Treaty





Marking the culmination of over a decade of negotiations to protect the high seas that cover nearly two-thirds of the global ocean, UN member states last week agreed on a historic treaty for protecting marine life in international waters that lie outside the jurisdiction of any country. The agreement on Biodiversity beyond national Jurisdiction which will be formally adopted at a later date will help achieve the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, which was agreed at the 2022 UN biodiversity conference. Even though the high seas comprise more than 60 percent of the world’s oceans and nearly half the planet’s surface, they have drawn far less attention than coastal waters and a few iconic species.Ocean ecosystems create half the oxygen humans breathe and limit global warming by absorbing much of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities. But they are threatened by climate change, pollution and overfishing. The High Seas Treaty will oblige countries to conduct environmental impact assessments of proposed activities on the high seas. The treaty also includes arrangements for sharing marine genetic resources, such as biological material from plants and animals in the ocean.

All about the Treaty:

  • The “BBNJ Treaty”, also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas”, is an international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, currently under negotiation at the United Nations.
  • This new instrument is being developed within the framework of the UNCLOS, the main international agreement governing human activities at sea.
  • It will achieve a more holistic management of high seas activities, which should better balance the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources.
  • BBNJ encompasses the high seas, beyond the exclusive economic zones or national waters of countries.

Significance of it:

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), these areas account for “almost half of the Earth’s surface”.
  • These areas are hardly regulated and also least understood or explored for its biodiversity – only 1% of these areas are under protection.

Importance of High Seas

  • The high seas – the vast open ocean and deep seabed areas found beyond any country’s national jurisdiction – cover about half of the Earth’s surface and 64% of global ocean area.
  • They hold great biodiversity but also remain the least-protected areas on our blue planet.
  • The high seas are home to an array of unique and little-known species, including deep-dwelling fishes and invertebrates that live long, slow-motion lives in eternal darkness.
  • The high seas also provide important habitat for many migratory species, such as whales, seabirds, sea turtles, tunas and sharks, that traverse ocean basins in search of food and mates.
  • Several marine species — including dolphins, whales, sea turtles and many fish — make long annual migrations, crossing national borders and the high seas.
  • Comprehensive protection of endangered species and habitats is not possible without High Seas
  • Around 90% of global warming occurs in the ocean, deeply affecting Marine life.
  • High seas are the  crucial component in global efforts to bring 30% of the world’s land and sea under protection by the end of the decade, a target known as“30 by 30”.
  • The treaty can have benefits for society (pharmaceuticals and food)and will help reverse biodiversity losses and ensure sustainable development.
  • The high seas treaty has also been an important matter pertainingto the North-South divide between poor and rich. Those who had resources have always been at an advantage from the activities in the high seas.