Media Release Marine Conservation

Conservation groups welcome completion of High Seas Treaty

March 5, 2023
  • Agreement creates framework to protect marine life in ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction 

The Australian Marine Conservation Society, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Save Our Marine Life alliance have welcomed the completion of a landmark international agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction, also known as the high seas.

This treaty will facilitate the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the high seas, as well as provide guidelines for the assessment of environmental impacts of human activities in these areas.

“High seas marine protected areas can play a critical role in building resilience to the impacts of climate change,” said Michelle Grady, Australian Director of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Australian Marine Conservation Society lead the Save Our Marine Life alliance.

“Governments and civil society must now ensure that the agreement is adopted and effectively implemented to safeguard high seas biodiversity,” Ms Grady said.

“We encourage Australia to play a leading role in ensuring this crucial treaty enters into force rapidly and that the collective task of protecting the high seas can begin without delay.”

More than 190 member states of the United Nations reached agreement on the high seas treaty, after negotiations spanning more than a decade.

“This is a momentous achievement finally paving a pathway to establishing meaningful protections for the high seas,” said Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“The high seas make up two-thirds of the global ocean and cover nearly half the surface of our planet.

“These vast areas, which lie beyond the maritime boundaries of any country support abundant fisheries, serve as migratory routes for species such as whales and sharks, and support remarkable ecosystems such as deep-water corals and other majestic marine life, yet only around 1% are protected.”

A network of high seas marine protected areas (MPAs) is critical to protecting at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 – not only because of the MPAs’ size and the incredible biodiversity they harbour, but also because of the connectivity between high seas and coastal waters.

Last December, the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity successfully adopted 30 by 30 – protecting 30% of land and sea areas by 2030 – as part of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, an international agreement aimed at halting and reversing biodiversity loss while reorienting nature on a path to recovery.

With only 1% of the high seas currently protected, this new treaty will be instrumental in providing the legal basis for nations to fulfil the 30 by 30 target.