a “victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing ocean health” and added that the pact will be crucial for addressing the planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
What is the treaty on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)? How important are the high seas to human survival and well-being?
UN member states agreed on a historic treaty
The treaty is yet to be formally adopted as members are yet to ratify it.
What are the high seas? Parts of the sea that are not included in the territorial waters or the internal waters of a country are known as the high seas
it is the area beyond a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone which extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastline and till where a nation has jurisdiction over living and non-living resources
No country is responsible for the management and protection of resources on the high seas.
The high seas account for more than 60% of the world’s ocean area and cover about half of the Earth’s surface, which makes them a hub of marine life.
The high seas regulate the climate by playing a fundamental role in planetary stability by mitigating the effects of climate change through its absorption of carbon and by storing solar radiation and distributing heat around the globe. In addition, the ocean provides a wealth of resources and services, including seafood and raw materials, genetic and medicinal resources, air purification, climate regulation, and aesthetic, scientific and cultural services,
Anthropogenic pressures on the high seas include seabed mining, noise pollution, chemical spills and fires, disposal of untreated waste (including antibiotics), overfishing, introduction of invasive species, and coastal pollution.
Despite the alarming situation, the high seas remain as one of the least-protected areas, with only about 1% of it under protection.
Last year, the European Union launched the High Ambition Coalition on BBNJ to finalise the agreement at the earliest.
At the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), countries agreed to protect 30% of oceans by 2030, as part of the ’30 x 30 pledge’ made by the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in December.
On February 20, IGC negotiations resumed with the conclusive round and a binding document was finally agreed upon by member states after two weeks on March 4.
Key features include:
1. An important negotiating point, and source of tension during the talks, was developing countries’ access to benefits reaped from the commercialisation of resources (especially genetic resources) extracted from the ocean. The treaty has agreed to setup an access- and benefit-sharing committee to frame guidelines.
2. Activities concerning marine genetic resources of areas on high seas should be in the interests of all States and for the benefit of humanity. They have to be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes.
3. Signatories will have to conduct environmental impact assessments before the exploitation of marine resources.
4. It stipulates that marine resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction that are held by indigenous people and local communities can only be accessed with their “free, prior and informed consent or approval and involvement”. No State can claim its right over marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the draft adds.
5. Members will have to provide the clearing-house mechanism (CHM), established as part of the treaty, with details like the objective of the research, geographical area of collection, names of sponsors, etc.
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