In June 2023, the United Nations adopted a new treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (‘BBNJ’).
This is also known as the high seas biodiversity treaty.
The high seas biodiversity treaty opened for signature on 20 September 2023. Australia signed the treaty on day one, following years of involvement in negotiations. Australia has not yet ratified the treaty.
The treaty will apply to areas beyond national jurisdiction, including:
- the high seas
- the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (the area), as defined under UNCLOS.
It will not apply to Australian waters.
Global ocean health issues
Around 60% of the global ocean is beyond national jurisdiction. These waters are some of the least well-known and least protected areas on Earth. They provide essential services for the world’s ecosystem.
The area is subject to increasing international interest and human activity. Its use has grown in frequency and intensity over recent decades. This threatens marine biodiversity and puts the health and resilience of the ocean at risk.
Biodiversity and ecosystems extend beyond and across boundaries. The health of the high seas also impacts the health of Australia’s waters.
The treaty is a remarkable milestone for the protection of the world’s ocean. It also provides for the sustainable and fair use of the ocean. This will help maintain its potential to provide for current and future generations.
The high seas biodiversity treaty provides a framework for:
- establishing area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, on the high seas
- environmental impact assessments for planned activities on the high seas
- the management of marine genetic resources from the high seas
- capacity building and the transfer of marine technology to help developing states.
The treaty will play an important role in achieving the global target to protect 30 per cent of the world’s coastal and marine areas by 2030.
The treaty complements existing international and regional instruments, frameworks, and bodies. It will provide opportunities for better international collaboration, including on marine science.
To learn more about the treaty, visit United Nations Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.
The treaty will begin 120 days after 60 states ratify it.
To see which countries have signed or ratified the treaty, visit the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty Status.