6th March, 2023: After more than a decade of negotiations, the countries of the United Nations have agreed the first ever treaty to protect the world's oceans that lie outside national boundaries. The UN High Seas Treaty places 30% of the world's oceans into protected areas, puts more money into marine conservation and means new rules for mining at sea. This will help reverse biodiversity losses and ensure sustainable development.
The treaty was agreed at UN Headquarters in New York on the 4th March, 2023, where tough negotiations on the draft treaty have been under way for the past two weeks. The agreement reached by delegates of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction is the culmination of UN-facilitated talks that began in 2004.
In welcoming the Treaty, Dr Paul Connolly, CEO Marine Institute said: This is a historic agreement and finally offers a framework for governments to work together to protect our global ocean. Ensuring a sustainable future for our ocean is one of the great missions of the next decade. The ocean is our life source, supporting humanity and every other organism on Earth and is critical to our shared future. Put simply, without a healthy ocean we will not have a healthy future. International cooperation is essential for developing the scientific research and innovative technologies needed to protect and preserve the ocean and all that it sustains.
In a Statement from the UN, Secretary-General António Guterres said: The Treaty is crucial for addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. This agreement will counter the destructive trends facing ocean health, now and for generations to come. The statement issued by the UN also recognized the critical support of non-governmental organizations, civil society, academic institutions and the scientific community.
Noting that the BBNJ decision builds on the legacy of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Secretary-General commended all parties for their ambition, flexibility and perseverance, and saluted Ambassador Rena Lee, of Singapore, for her leadership and dedication. “Ladies and gentlemen, the ship has reached the shore,” Ms. Lee said last night, announcing the agreement to an extended standing ovation in the meeting room.
Delegations will reconvene later to formally adopt the text.