Q. The High Seas Treaty represents a significant step towards global ocean governance. Critically analyze its key provisions and potential impacts on marine conservation and sustainable use of oceanic resources. (15 Marks, 250 Words)

Core Demand of the Question:

  • Analyse the key provisions of the High Seas Treaty.
  • Evaluate the criticisms associated with the High Seas Treaty.
  • Outline the potential impacts of the treaty on marine conservation and the sustainable use of oceanic resources.


The High Seas Treaty, formally known as the agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), is an international legal framework aimed at maintaining the ecological health of the oceans. It governs the high seas, i.e.  areas beyond national jurisdiction, constituting roughly two-thirds of the world’s ocean area. The treaty is crucial for global ocean governance, establishing mechanisms for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in these international waters.

Key Provisions of High Seas Treaty: 

  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Establishes MPAs to conserve marine ecosystemsregulating activities to prevent overexploitation and ensure ecological balance.
    For example: The Ross Sea MPA in Antarctica protects marine species, limiting fishing and human activities to preserve biodiversity.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs): Mandates EIAs for activities potentially harmful to marine environments, ensuring environmental scrutiny before project approval.
    For instance: EIAs are required for deep-sea mining projects to assess and mitigate potential ecological impacts on the ocean floor.
  • Marine Genetic Resources (MGRs): Ensures fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from MGRs, preventing monopolisation and promoting global sharing.
    For instance: Genetic research on marine organisms is shared among international scientists, facilitating collaborative discoveries and innovations.
  • Capacity Building and Technology Transfer: Emphasises capacity building and technology transfer to developing countries, enhancing their ability to conserve marine resources.
    For example: Training programs for marine conservationists in small island nations improve local expertise in resource management.
  • Institutional Mechanism: Establishes Conference of Parties (COP) and other bodies for oversight and compliance, fostering international cooperation and implementation.
    For example: The COP monitors treaty implementation, ensuring adherence to conservation goals and resolving disputes among nations.
  • Funding Mechanisms: Provides financial resources for conservation efforts and capacity building, ensuring economic constraints do not hinder participation.
    For example: Global Environment Facility funds support marine conservation projects, enabling developing countries to implement sustainable practices.


  • MPAs Implementation Challenges: Designating and managing MPAs in international waters can be complex due to enforcement and jurisdictional issues.
    For instance: Monitoring illegal fishing in MPAs is challenging without clear jurisdiction and international cooperation.
  • EIA Effectiveness: The effectiveness of EIAs depends on rigorous standards and enforcement, which can vary among countries.
    For instance: Inconsistent EIA standards can lead to inadequate protection and environmental harm in vulnerable regions.
  • Equitable MGR Sharing: Ensuring equitable sharing of MGR benefits may face challenges due to differing national interests and capabilities.
    For instance: Disparities in research capabilities between developed and developing nations can hinder fair benefit sharing.
  • Institutional Mechanism Efficiency: The success of the institutional mechanism relies on global cooperation and effective governance structures.
    For instance: Disagreements in COP meetings can stall treaty progress and hinder implementation.
  • Funding Adequacy: Sufficient and sustained funding is critical for the treaty’s success, which may be challenging to secure.
    For instance: Economic crises can reduce available funding for marine conservation, impacting project continuity.

Potential Impacts of the Treaty on Marine Conservation and Sustainable Use of Oceanic Resources:

  • Enhanced Biodiversity Protection: MPAs and regulated activities significantly improve marine biodiversity protection, reversing overexploitation damage.
    For instance: The Great Barrier Reef’s conservation efforts have improved coral health, supporting diverse marine life.
  • Sustainable Resource Use: Enforcing EIAs and promoting sustainable practices ensure marine resource use without compromising ecosystem health. 
  • Equitable Resource Distribution: Fair sharing of MGR benefits prevents monopolisation, ensuring all nations, especially developing ones, benefit.
    For instance: Shared profits from marine biotechnology research aid global health and economic development.
  • Strengthened Global Cooperation: International collaboration fosters a unified approach to marine conservation and sustainable resource use.
    For example: Joint initiatives like the International Coral Reef Initiative promote collaborative conservation efforts.
  • Technological Advancements: Capacity building and technology transfer enable developing nations to targeted management and conservation of marine resources.
    For instance :Satellite technology for monitoring illegal fishing activities improves enforcement capabilities.
  • Economic Opportunities: New sustainable economic activities, like ecotourism and sustainable fishing, boost economic development while preserving ecosystems.
    For instance: Marine eco-tourism in the Maldives generates significant revenue, supporting local communities.

The High Seas Treaty is a significant step in global ocean governance, aiming for marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use. Effective implementation requires robust international cooperationfinancial support, and commitment from all nations, ensuring a sustainable future for our oceans.

Share this with friends ->