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Historic UN Treaty on High Seas

The United Nations High Seas Treaty is an instrument of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), agreed upon by an intergovernmental conference at the UN on 4 March 2023. Talks began in 2004, almost 20 years ago.

Oceans produce half the oxygen we breathe, represent 95% of the planet’s biosphere and are the world’s largest carbon sink. Yet, until now, only 1% of the high seas is under any protection protocol and just 39% of the ocean falls under the national jurisdiction of individual countries.

This new legal framework would place 30 percent of the world’s oceans into protected areas, put more money into marine conversations, and cover access to and use of marine genetic resources.

It protects resources of the sea by making environmental assessments mandatory before any new exploitation of marine resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction, such as deep-sea mining.

This treaty advocates for a precautionary approach to using marine resources responsibly, where no national jurisdiction can apply. It is decisive in enforcing the 30×30 pledge (protecting 30% of ocean, land and coastal areas by 2030).

National governments still need to formally adopt and ratify this agreement.


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