Environmental Policy News

Treaty of the High Seas: the United States of America Join

The United States of America has announced their intention to join the High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction. The coalition, launched by the EU at the One Ocean Summit in Brest in 2022, now gathers 51 parties.

These parties are committed, at the highest political level, to achieve as soon as possible an ambitious international agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ, also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas”) under the auspices of the United Nations. The areas beyond national jurisdiction comprise 95% of the ocean. The treaty will allow to designate marine protected areas and will regulate human activities in the High Seas. The announcement from the United States takes place at a crucial time ahead of a decisive new round of talks, due to start on February 20 in the United Nations.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said, “I am very happy to welcome the United States into the High Ambition Coalition. We share with them, and the 51 members of the Coalition, the goal of urgently protecting the world’s oceans, through an ambitious and equitable High Seas Treaty. I am looking forward to working further together with the United States and all Coalition members ahead of a crucial round of talks.”

The adoption of the High Seas Treaty is a key priority for the European Union. The EU will continue to work closely with the members of the coalition and all delegations to conclude the negotiations at the resumed session, which will take place in New York from February 20 to March 3, 2023.

Important progress has been made during last year’s 4th and 5th Intergovernmental Conference and during the inter-sessional period. The EU and its Member States are hopeful that the decision of the United States to join the coalition will inspire other delegations to do the same in order to approach the coming negotiating session with a greater sense of purpose and urgency.


Areas beyond national jurisdiction comprise 95% of the ocean and provide invaluable ecological, economic, social, cultural, scientific, and food-security benefits to humanity. However, these areas are now vulnerable to growing threats, including the impacts of climate change, overexploitation of natural resources, and pollution from multiple sources.

With the purpose to protect and preserve the rich biodiversity in these areas, and following over a decade of preparatory work, the United Nations General Assembly agreed in December 2017 on the development of a new international agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction. The future instrument will ensure the proper regulation of human activities and the protection of biodiversity in the high seas, while promoting a science- and ecosystem-based approach to the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biological resources. More broadly, protecting the high seas will also be an essential element to achieve the internationally agreed goals on biodiversity.

Mindful of the need to enhance efforts, the European Union launched a High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National at the One Ocean Summit (Brest), on February 11, 2022, during the French Presidency of the Council of the EU. The coalition gathers parties which are committed, at the highest political level, to achieve, as soon as possible, an ambitious, effective, inclusive, fair, and balanced agreement on BBNJ, under the auspices of the United Nations. Following the joining of the United States, the coalition now counts 51 members and remains open for signature to all interested States and relevant stakeholders.

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