Environmental Policy News

Countdown to Ratify the High Seas Treaty Begins

A year since the historic High Seas Treaty to protect Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) was formally adopted by UN Member States on June 19, 2023, the High Seas Alliance started the one-year countdown to reach the goal of securing the 60 ratifications needed for the Treaty to enter into force by the United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC3) in June 2025, France.

The countdown began a week before UN Member States convene at the UN Headquarters in New York to plan for the Treaty’s entry into force at the first Preparatory Commission BBNJ Agreement meeting on June 24–26, 2024.

Once 60 countries ratify the High Seas Treaty; it will enter into force and become the world’s first international law to mandate the conservation and management of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ), enabling the establishment of and regulating potentially harmful activities through comprehensive environmental impact assessments. To date, 91 nations have signed the Treaty, and many others are in the process of ratification yet, a year since adoption, only seven—Palau, Chile, Belize, Seychelles, Monaco, Mauritius, and the Federal States of Micronesia—have formally ratified. Meanwhile, political momentum is building, with 34 nations committed to securing the 60 ratifications needed for it to enter into force by June 2025.

The High Seas—the ocean beyond countries’ maritime borders—covers half the planet and plays an essential role in regulating our climate by absorbing about 30% of the CO2 produced by humans each year. This vast ocean area supports some of the most important, yet critically endangered ecosystems on Earth, yet a lack of governance has left it increasingly vulnerable to human overexploitation. Currently, it is the least protected area of our planet; only 1.5% is fully protected.

Transforming the High Seas Treaty into action in the water is a critical step to securing international goals to reverse the climate and biodiversity crises, including the international target to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030, agreed during the UN Global Biodiversity Summit in December 2022.

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