Editor’s note: The content on this page was published before June 2023, when the United Nations adopted a legally binding treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, sometimes referred to as the high seas treaty.
The high seas make up nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean and support diverse marine life that is critical to the health of the planet, climate and people. Currently, only about 1% of these waters, which are outside the control of any one government, are protected.
To help safeguard more of the high seas, United Nations member countries are negotiating a treaty that would, among other things, establish a mechanism for creating a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) to safeguard biodiversity in ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction and ensure a healthy global ocean for future generations.
As part of the negotiations, delegates are pushing for provisions for capacity building and transfer of marine technology to ensure countries, particularly developing and small island nations, have the resources, expertise and skills to fully benefit from the treaty. Such provisions include mechanisms to identify needs and gaps in capacity, build regional expertise and share the latest data and technologies, as well as access adequate and reliable sources of funding that would also help countries meet their obligations under the treaty.
Providing capacity building would enhance these countries’ ability to participate in marine exploration and scientific research, undertake environmental impact assessments of activities on the high seas and help them identify, monitor and review MPAs, to conserve marine biodiversity.
Continual assessment and monitoring of these countries’ needs, as well as facilitating cooperative partnerships among scientists, private sector entities and governments, would help ensure successful, long-term implementation of the treaty and further advance effective high seas conservation efforts.
It is critical that all nations have the capacity to conserve and manage vital marine resources on the high seas to effectively fulfil international obligations and commitments to protect our ocean.
Andrea Wilson works on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ protecting ocean life on the high seas project.