UN High Seas Treaty

  • IASbaba
  • August 31, 2022
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In News: The recent negotiations involving 168 countries, to agree on a UN treaty for protecting oceans was unsuccessful.

What is the proposed UN High Seas treaty?

  • Also referred to as the ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean’, the treaty to deal with Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction has been under discussion for several years.
  • It concerns the ocean existing beyond the Exclusive Economic Zones that lie from the coast of a country to about 200 nautical miles, till where it has special rights for exploration. Waters beyond that are known as open seas or high seas.
  • The treaty was to be negotiated under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 which governs the rights of countries regarding marine resources.
  • As there is no treaty for conserving the health of vast swathes of the earth’s oceans, a UN resolution in 2017 had decided to rectify this while setting 2022 as the deadline.
  • Negotiations included establishing marine protected areas to put limits on certain activities, environmental impact assessments or clearances for sustainability of works, financial support to countries and sharing other scientific knowledge.

How are the world’s oceans regulated as of now?

  • Some treaties, along with the UNCLOS, regulate the conduct of actors on the high seas.
  • The UNCLOS led to the establishment of territorial sea boundaries 22 km offshore, deciding the region up to which countries could claim full sovereign territorial rights, as well as the 200 nautical miles EEZ limit. It also created the International Seabed Authority and other conflict-resolution mechanisms.
  • But a treaty dedicated to protecting ocean health does not exist as of now.
  • Conversely, every country has the right to access open seas, resulting in large-scale drilling and trawling operations for catching fish and other animals for commercial purposes.

What are the risks of countries failing to reach an agreement?

  • 95% of global warming is occurring in the ocean.
  • The effects of ocean warming include sea level rise due to thermal expansion, coral bleaching, accelerated melting of Earth’s major ice sheets, intensified hurricanes, and changes in ocean health and biochemistry.
  • Excessive fishing has increased manifold over the years, and a third of species such as sharks and rays are at the risk of extinction, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Despite acknowledging these threats, members failed to agree on how to deal with these threats.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) With reference to the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, consider the following statements: (2022)

  1. A coastal state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baseline determined in accordance with the convention.
  2. Ships of all states, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.
  3. The Exclusive Economic Zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

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