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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement19 June 2023Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries2 min read

An historic achievement: Treaty of the High Seas is adopted

Diver swimming with a green sea turtle in the wild, among colorful coral reef © Aaron/Adobe Stock
Diver swimming with a green sea turtle in the wild, among colorful coral reef © Aaron/Adobe Stock

Today, the Treaty of the High Seas was adopted by consensus and standing ovation during the United Nations meeting in New York. This Treaty is key to protect the ocean, promote equity and fairness, tackle environmental degradation, fight climate change, and prevent biodiversity loss in the high seas. It has been a priority for the European Union and its Member States, that have led negotiations at global level through the BBNJ High Ambition Coalition.

The adoption of this Treaty, also known as “BBNJ” (biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction), is an historic achievement marking the successful end of more than a decade of multilateral work. This agreement is also a welcome addition to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provides the legal framework under which all activities in the ocean take place.

The Treaty will enter into force when 60 parties ratify it. The European Union has committed to support the Treaty’s ratification and early implementation through the EU Global Ocean Programme of 40 million euros and has invited members of the High Ambition Coalition to do the same within their capabilities.

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said:

This is a major win for biodiversity - a game changer for the protection of the ocean and the sustainable use of its marine resources. The European Union and its Member States are committed to signing and ratifying the BBNJ Agreement as soon as possible. We urge others to do so too, as we hope the BBNJ Treaty will receive universal ratification and swiftly enter into force

What the Treaty will bring – in a nutshell

  • The BBNJ Treaty sets up a procedure to establish large-scale marine protected areas in the high seas. This facilitates the achievement of the target to effectively conserve and manage 30% of land and sea by 2030, which was agreed in December .2022 within the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
  • It establishes the sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources and foresees capacity building and the transfer of marine technology between the parties.
  • It contains clear rules to conduct environmental impact assessments, with the right checks and balances, before running activities in the high seas.


The high seas provide invaluable ecological, economic, social and food security benefits to humanity and are in need of urgent protection.

Areas beyond national jurisdiction cover nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean, comprising the high seas and the Area (the seabed beyond national jurisdiction). They contain marine resources and biodiversity and provide invaluable ecological, economic, social, cultural, scientific and food-security benefits to humanity. However, they are under mounting pressure from pollution (including noise), overexploitation, climate change and decreasing biodiversity.

In March 2023, global negotiations concluded on the landmark Treaty of the High Seas.

More information

Commission website on the BBNJ negotiations ‘Protecting the ocean, time for action’

Press release of March 2023 on the global agreement on protection and sustainable use of resources and biodiversity in high seas

Treaty of the High Seas to protect ocean biodiversity


Publication date
19 June 2023
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries