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Seven Pacific Island countries sign UN High Seas Treaty

Image: President of the Federated States of Micronesia, Wesley M. Simina, signing the UN Treaty of the High Seas. Photo: @FSMMission_UN

21 September 2023, New York – The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has become the first Pacific country to sign the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Treaty, also commonly referred to as the Treaty of the High Seas. Adopted earlier this year after 15 years of negotiations, six other Pacific countries, Fiji, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu, have followed FSM to sign the treaty which exists to protect the ocean, promote equity and fairness, tackle environmental degradation, fight climate change, and prevent biodiversity loss in the high seas. 

FSM’s President Wesley M. Simina, and six other Pacific country leaders, signed the treaty on the margins of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) are stewards of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific Ocean, which covers nearly one-third of the Earth’s surface. It is the region’s largest resource which underpins Pacific peoples’ livelihoods and way of life. 

The seven Pacific countries and Members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) became the first to sign up to the new Agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.

“We congratulate and commend our Member countries for their leadership in signing the Agreement, helping to ensure that our Pacific ocean and its resources are protected and better managed for present and future generations,” said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Director General of SPREP.  

“SPREP is committed to work with our Members countries, to protect our Pacific Ocean, which is home to many of the world’s marine species and supports our unique Pacific Island ecosystems with its diverse coral reefs, the deepest oceanic trenches, and the healthies and in some cases, largest remaining populations of many globally rare and threatened species such as whales, sea turtles, dugongs, and saltwater crocodiles.”

Mr Nawadra said the Agreement will help protect not only the Pacific Ocean but all of the world’s oceans from threats such as overfishing, ocean acidification, and marine plastic pollution. 

According to the UN, the treaty covers, among other things, access and use of marine genetic resources and related digital sequencing information, as well as fair and equitable sharing. 

It envisages the use of area-based management tools to sustainably manage activities in specific parts of the high seas, and establish marine protected areas for long-term biodiversity conservation goals. 

It also spells out environmental impact assessment obligations for planned activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction, which will allow identification and evaluation of potential impacts and inform decision making, management and mitigation of risks. 

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