• Recently, the United Nations organised the Intergovernmental Conference to draft the first-ever treaty on the Ocean’s Biological Diversity to conserve marine diversity in the High Seas.
  • The conference was held in New York, USA.
  • A series of conferences was set in motion in 2018 to draft international legislation under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in these areas.

Objectives of the New Treaty

  • The treaty seeks to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas of the ocean which are beyond the limits of national maritime zones.
  • It will also address marine genetic resources, including questions on benefit-sharing, measures such as area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, and the transfer of marine technology.
  • The agreement will be deciding on the rights of companies that undertake exploration for biological resources in the high seas.
  • With advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering, several companies see potential in exotic microbes and other organisms – several of them undiscovered – that abide in the deep ocean and could be used for drugs, vaccines and a variety of commercial applications.
  • Since marine life is already reeling from the impact of industrial fishing, climate change and other extractive industries, the treaty seeks to protect our global oceans.
  • Countries can protect or exploit waters under 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) to their shorelines, but everything outside these ‘exclusive economic zones’ is considered international waters: the high seas.
  • The high seas make up two-thirds of Earth’s oceans, providing 90% of its available habitat for life and accounting for up to USD 16 billion a year in fisheries catch.
  • They are also prime territory for the discovery of valuable mineral deposits, potent pharmaceuticals and oil and gas reserves.

International law identifies four global commons namely:

  1. the High Seas, the Atmosphere, Antarctica, Outer Space.
  2. Global commons refer to resource domains that lie outside the political reach of any one nation.


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