On World Oceans Day 2024, IUCN chief urges countries to strive for High Seas Biodiversity Treaty

Seven countries have ratified the treaty so far; it will become international law only when that number reaches 60  

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Saturday 08 June 2024
Close-up of a wandering albatross, between the Falkland Islands and the Shag Rocks, South Atlantic Ocean. Photo: iStock

Grethel Aguilar, the director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), urged countries worldwide “to strive for a fully functional High Seas Biodiversity Treaty” on World Oceans Day 2024.

“All signing nations should be supported in the ratification process to bring this treaty into force, moving almost half of the planet’s surface into better regulation through international law,” Aguilar said in a statement released by IUCN on the occasion of World Ocean Day on June 8, 2024.

The head of the IUCN also added that the number of ratifying countries for the global agreement on unsustainable fisheries' practices and subsidies should increase, so that the world’s fish stocks are not overexploited.

“We must also continue to make the scientific, legal, and moral case for a moratorium on deep-sea mining,” she added.

The high seas are those areas of the world’s oceans that are outside national jurisdictions. They constitute a huge chunk of the world’s oceans and are home to a wide variety of biodiversity. Despite this, less than two per cent of the world’s high seas are protected by law.

Last June, the United Nations agreement on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction or BBNJ Agreement, also known as the High Seas Treaty, was formally adopted by governments.

The Treaty opened to State signatures on September 20, 2023. “By signing, countries express their willingness to proceed to ratification, when they formally consent to the new international law,” according to the High Seas Alliance, a partnership of organisations aimed at building a strong common voice and constituency for the conservation of the High Seas.

According to the Alliance, 90 countries have signed the treaty, including India’s neighbours Nepal and Bangladesh.

However, only seven countries — Belize, Chile, Mauritius, Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Palau and the Seychelles — have ratified the treaty.

The treaty will become international law only when it is signed and ratified by at least 60 countries. India has neither signed nor ratified the treaty.

“The #HighSeas, 2/3 of the ocean, are some of most biodiverse yet the least protected areas on Earth. On #WorldOceanDay, let's make waves of change – take collective action by asking world leaders to ratify the #HighSeasTreaty now!” the Alliance posted on its X handle on June 8.

“It is clear that humanity must build on the momentum of our ocean breakthroughs, coral breakthrough, and mangrove breakthrough; the life of the ocean and our blue planet require it. IUCN is ready to play our part in turning the tide,” Aguilar noted in her statement.

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