HIGH SEAS TREATY (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     10th July 2024        
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Context: The Indian government announced plans to imminently sign and ratify the High Seas Treaty, marking a significant step towards global marine conservation efforts.

Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions Treaty

  • About: It also known as the Treaty of the High Seas, aims to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction.
  • Adopted: 19 June 2023.
  • Signatories: More than 70 nations including nine ACAP Parties have signed the Agreement.
  • Ratified: So far, 88 countries are signatories to the treaty. Only two Chile and Palau have ratified it so far. 

o The BBNJ will “enter into force” when at least 60 countries ratify it.

  • Aim: To encourage nations to ratify a new treaty aimed at safeguarding the high seas from pollution, climate change, and overfishing.
  • Regulation: These areas are largely unregulated and least understood in terms of biodiversity, with only 1% currently under protection.

Landmark Agreement

  • Comparative Significance: The High Seas Treaty is often likened to the 2015 Paris Agreement for its potential impact on global governance of the oceans.
  • Scope and Jurisdiction: The treaty focuses exclusively on areas beyond national jurisdictions, known as the high seas or international waters, covering approximately 64% of the Earth's ocean area.
  • Challenges of Global Commons: High seas are subject to multiple challenges due to their status as global commons, including overexploitation, biodiversity loss, pollution (such as plastics), and ocean acidification.
  • Legal Framework - UNCLOS: The 1982 UN Convention on Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS) forms the legal foundation governing maritime activities, defining national rights and duties, and establishing EEZs.
  • Complementing UNCLOS: While UNCLOS provides the legal framework, the High Seas Treaty aims to operationalize principles of equity, resource conservation, and biodiversity protection in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Objective of Treaty

  • The treaty aims to achieve conservation and protection of marine ecology.
  • It seeks fair and equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources.
  • Mandatory environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for potentially polluting activities are a key focus.
  • A crucial objective includes building capacity and transferring marine technologies to developing countries.
  • Conservation efforts are bolstered through the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), akin to national parks.
  • The treaty ensures equitable access to marine genetic resources for scientific research and commercial purposes.
  • Prior EIAs are mandatory for activities that may harm marine ecosystems, whether in national jurisdictions or the high seas.
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