High Seas Treaty signed by nearly 200 countries to protect marine life


March 5 (UPI) — Nearly 200 countries signed a treaty Saturday night to protect marine life in international waters after two weeks of negotiations at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The governments of each country that signed the treaty will now have to ratify the legally-binding agreement.


“I’m extremely encouraged that countries have agreed on the U.N. legally binding instrument to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction,” Antonio Guterres, the director-general of the U.N., said in a statement.

“This is an important step to protect our oceans.”

A spokesperson for Guterres hailed the treaty as a “breakthrough” and said in a statement that the signing of the treaty “marks the culmination of nearly two decades of work” after the United Nations first discussed ocean protection in 2004.

“It is crucial for addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution,” the statement reads.

“It is also vital for achieving ocean-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.”

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement, reached last December, set a global commitment to protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.


The High Seas Treaty will provide the international community with tools and means to create protected areas in the ocean and conduct evaluations of such things as the damage of commercial activities like deep sea mining to marine life.

The agreement comes after Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, launched a coalition of more than 50 countries committed to finalizing the treaty in February 2022.

The United States officially joined that coalition in January, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts nonprofit, which marked “the latest commitment to secure and ambitious outcome at the upcoming round of talks by a major economy.”

“The ocean is food, energy, life. It has given humanity so much — it’s time to give back,” von der Leyen said in a statement.

“I welcome the agreement on the High Seas; a treaty that will protect the ocean beyond national jurisdiction. Grateful to the High Ambition Coalition for its perseverance. We made it!”

Nature and wildlife advocacy groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund, issued statements praising the landmark treaty.

“What happens on the high seas will no longer be ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ The High Seas Treaty will allow for the kind of oversight and integration we need if we want the ocean to keep providing the social, economic and environmental benefits humanity currently enjoys,” said Jessica Battle, a global ocean governance policy expert who led WWF’s team at the negotiations.


“We can now look at the cumulative impacts on our ocean in a way that reflects the interconnected blue economy and the ecosystems that support it.”