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Crucial High Seas Treaty Agreed

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

It has been almost two decades in the making but on Saturday night in New York, after days of gruelling round-the-clock talks, UN member states finally agreed on a treaty to protect the high seas.

UN Building, New York
UN Building, New York

Following OGN's report last week (The Most Important Talks Nobody Has Heard Of), it's very good news that this historic treaty has been agreed. It's crucial for enforcing the 30x30 pledge made by countries at the UN biodiversity conference in December, and will now protect a third of the sea (and land) by 2030. Without such a treaty this target would certainly have failed, as until now no legal mechanism existed to set up marine protected areas (MPAs) on the high seas.

Why is this so important? Ocean ecosystems produce half the oxygen we breathe, represent 95 percent of the planet’s biosphere and soak up carbon dioxide, as the world’s largest carbon sink. Yet until now, fragmented and loosely enforced rules governing the high seas have rendered this area more susceptible than coastal waters to damage and exploitation.

The new treats covers almost two-thirds of the ocean that lies outside national boundaries and will provide a legal framework for establishing vast MPAs to protect against the loss of wildlife and share out the genetic resources of the high seas.

The High Ambition Coalition - which includes the EU, US, UK and China - were key players in brokering the deal, building coalitions instead of sowing division and showing willingness to compromise in the final days of talks. The Global South led the way in ensuring the treaty could be put into practice in a fair and equitable way.



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