After two decades of negotiating UN adopts the historic new BBNJ agreement

On 19 June, the United Nations (UN) adopted the new oceans treaty on sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The UN’s 193 Member States adopted a landmark legally binding marine biodiversity agreement following nearly two decades of fierce negotiations over forging a common wave of conservation and sustainability in the high seas beyond national boundaries covering two-thirds of the planet’s oceans.

The Intergovernmental Conference had finalized the agreement in March after over 36 hours of nonstop negotiations. This agreement is critical for ocean sustainability since the areas outside national jurisdiction, known as the high seas, include approximately two-thirds of the ocean’s surface area, yet only around 1% of this vast expanse is protected, and even then, frequently with little effective management in place.

United Nations’ five key points on why it is important for the world are:
– Fresh protection beyond borders.
– Cleaner oceans.
– Sustainably managing fish stocks.
– Lowering temperatures.
– Vital for realizing 2030 Agenda.

According to IMO, The BBNJ treaty addresses, among other things:
– the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ.
– marine genetic resources, including questions on benefit-sharing.
– Area Based Management Tools, including marine protected areas.
– environmental impact assessments.
– capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology (CB&TMT).

The High Seas Treaty intends to safeguard 30% of the seas by 2030, up from the present 1.2%. The deal will become effective after 60 countries have ratified it.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has welcomed the adoption of the landmark High Seas Treaty.

“We are delighted that after more than two decades of work, the High Seas Treaty has been formally adopted. There is still a way to go of course before it comes into effect, as 60 member states need to ratify, but this is without question a significant moment and should be celebrated,” said Emily Rowley, ICS Policy Manager (Legal).

She added that from a shipping industry’s perspective, the High Seas Treaty agreement takes into account the IMO’s role and is intended to cover gaps in ocean governance. It will help ensure that emerging high seas industries will be as well-regulated as shipping is by IMO, with the detail of any measures that may be needed for ships to be discussed and agreed at IMO.


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