Youth for Our Planet | News

Another Failed Attempt at the High Seas Treaty

With more than ⅔ of the global ocean being considered as the “High Seas”, young people who care about the ocean must demand the establishment of the High Seas Treaty to protect the majority of the world’s marine environments. Earlier this year, world leaders convened in New York for what became the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC-5). Dating back to 2020, this represents the fifth time leaders have come together to discuss the High Seas Treaty. Some consensus has determined that this session made large progress, yet the ultimate takeaway is that the treaty has not yet been implemented. As biodiversity continues to suffer and climate change progressively gets worse, we now will have to wait until early 2023 for IGC-6, as opposed to starting progressive reformation of our High Seas now. While the trustworthiness of our leaders remains uncertain, the only certainty is that Nature Cannot Wait.

Furthermore, with 40% of people globally living within100km of the Ocean, it is clear we are reliant on the Ocean for our livelihoods. The High Seas Treaty would establish firm laws for the majority of our Ocean that lies beyond national jurisdiction. Of these guidelines, one of the most controversial and influential would be the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). MPA currently represents about 7% of the ocean. The common phrase “30x30” refers to the concept of protecting 30% of the Ocean by 2030. This initiative would largely address overfishing. While some argue that this would have a devastating impact on the fishing industry, studies and common sense suggest that nations still can fish within their own national jurisdiction and that the overflow from MPA would cause a much more sustainable fishing industry, with less of a negative impact on our environment.

Another major precedent that the High Seas Treaty would set is the transparency of data on a global scale of information found in the High Seas. This would allow developing nations to receive information and resources from materials discovered in the High Seas that currently only make wealthy nations wealthier. Considering the High Seas represent water beyond any national jurisdiction, this is a much more comprehensible and just system.

The High Seas Treaty would also address mining. While an outdated concept from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) established a “freedom to fish, travel and lay cables in the high seas”, modern technology has allowed developed nations to take advantage of that principle and be able to mine well beyond their national jurisdiction. A major component of discussion of the High Seas Treaty includes Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), providing a more modernized approach to address the impact of mining in the High Seas.

While all of this information should be enough to put the High Seas Treaty into effect, we have five sessions that have been unsuccessful to show that world leaders are hesitant to act. The bottom line is that the High Seas represent the home to 90% of marine life, all of which will continue to exponentially suffer until we can implement change. 

Nature Cannot Wait.

Jake Rabin
Youth for Our Planet Head of Communications

Additional Articles on the High Seas Treaty:

Despite Progress, High Seas Treaty Talks Not Yet “Over the Finish Line” | News | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD
The High Seas Treaty: For Life Beyond the Law - High Seas Alliance
The U.N. High Seas Treaty Could Be the Oceans' Last Hope (
Challenges Facing the UN High Seas Treaty (
Decisive progress on the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty (