High Seas Biodiversity Treaty Introduced To Parliament

Dept of Climate Change, Energy, Environment & Water

The Albanese Labor Government has today tabled the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty in Parliament as part of its global commitment to better protect the world’s oceans.

This brings Australia another step closer to ratifying this landmark Treaty to conserve and sustainably manage marine biological diversity on the high seas.

The Treaty is an implementing agreement under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which sets out a comprehensive legal framework governing all activities in the ocean and seas. The Treaty supplements this existing framework and will be critical to address the threats facing the high seas, an area that encompasses over 60 per cent of the ocean area and 90 per cent of its volume.

Currently, only about one per cent of the high seas is protected. Roughly two-thirds of species in oceans are estimated as yet to be discovered.

The Treaty will help to establish marine protected areas on the high seas, which will complement Australia’s own network of domestic marine parks. Together, these protected areas will play an important role in achieving the global target to protect 30 per cent of the world’s coastal and marine areas by 2030, to which Australia has committed.

Australia is a global leader on ocean conservation. Last year, we tripled the size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park and added an area the size of Germany to the highly protected, ‘no-take’ zones. This was the largest contribution to ocean conservation anywhere in the world in 2023.

A healthy and resilient ocean supports Australia’s significant marine industries and is a critical connection between Australia and our region. The Treaty will support opportunities for Australian marine industries and researchers, by creating a clear and level regulatory environment while cooperating with existing frameworks.

The Treaty will be considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which will provide recommendations on Australia’s ratification of the Treaty. Subject to JSCOT’s recommendation, Australia – a founding signatory of the Treaty – will work to prepare and introduce legislation necessary to implement the Treaty.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong:

“The ocean sustains and connects us. Protecting the ocean is vital to the peace, safety and prosperity of the Blue Pacific Continent.

“Australia has worked alongside our Pacific partners to make this treaty a reality, helping to safeguard our ocean for future generations.

“We look forward to continuing our close partnership with the Pacific during the next phase of work at the United Nations to bring the treaty into force.”

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water the Hon Tanya Plibersek:

“Australia is leading cooperation to protect and manage our ocean and this landmark agreement is the culmination of over 20 years of international effort.

“The new Treaty creates stronger protections for our oceans and provides opportunities for international collaboration, including on marine science, traditional knowledge and establishment of marine protected areas on the high seas.

“Australians know how important marine parks are in our own country – sanctuaries for marine life to grow and flourish. This Treaty allows us to establish marine parks in the high seas and deliver stronger environmental protections worldwide.

“As a maritime nation, Australia’s prosperity relies on healthy and sustainably managed oceans.”

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