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UN adopts first ever High Seas Treaty

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environment Conservation


Source: Forbes

 Context: The United Nations has adopted the High Seas Treaty, the first-ever international treaty aimed at protecting and governing activities such as fishing, mining, and oil extraction in international waters.

About the ratification:

The treaty, officially known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (BBNJ), has been signed by nearly 200 nations after 15 years of discussions. However, the treaty still needs to be ratified by at least 60 member nations to take effect. The next ocean conference in June 2025 in Nice, France, is expected to witness the completion of ratifications.


Aim: Its purpose is to prevent species extinctions caused by overfishing, oil extraction, deep-sea mining, and other environmentally impactful activities on the high seas.


Important features:

  • It establishes Marine protected areas (MPAs) and puts more money into marine conservation and new rules for mining at sea.
  • Arrangements for sharing marine genetic resources, such as biological material from plants and animals in the ocean.
  • Requirements for environmental assessmentsfor deep sea activities like mining.
  • Richer nations have pledged money for the delivery of the treaty. For example, the EU announced nearly 820m euros (£722.3m).
  • It also includes guidelines to measure the environmental impacts of high sea activities like fishing and mining and requires countries to present an assessment of those impacts to the UN about any activities that the country is doing in international waters.
  • A new group called the Conference of Parties will oversee and enforce compliance with the treaty’s terms.
BBNJ Treaty (Treaty of the High Seas)Information
AboutIt is a legally binding International agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
It covers the high seas, beyond exclusive economic zones or national waters of countries. These areas account for almost half of the Earth’s surface.
NeedCurrently, only 1% of these areas are under protection. As of 2023, 90% of big fish populations are depleted and 50% of coral reefs are destroyed mainly due to overfishing.
NegotiationsLaunched at the One Ocean Summit in February 2022, the High Ambition Coalition on BBNJ aimed for a common and ambitious outcome
Previous agreementBefore this, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, adopted in 1982, was the last attempt to extend governance farther into the ocean, as it added regulations to oceans within 12 nautical miles of countries’ coastlines.
What are the high seas?


It refers to the areas of the world’s oceans and seas that are beyond any national jurisdiction. These are the waters that do not fall under the sovereignty of any specific country. The high seas are collectively considered a global commons, belonging to all humankind.
IndiaIndia has been actively involved in the negotiations for the development of an international legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).
About UNCLOSThe United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982 is an international agreement that establishes the legal framework for marine and maritime activities.


It is also known as the Law of the Sea. It divides marine areas into five main zones namely- Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the High Seas.


Insta Links:

How to save our high seas from overfishing and pollution?


Prelims Links: UPSC 2014

Consider the following international agreements :

  1. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  2. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
  3. The World Heritage Convention


Which of the above has/have a bearing on biodiversity?


  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3


Ans: 4

Q With reference to the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, consider the following statements: ( UPSC 2022)

  1. A coastal state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from a baseline determined in accordance with the convention.
  2. Ships of all states, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.
  3. The Exclusive Economic Zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.


Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3


Ans: D