Sustainable development: Seychelles applauds historic UN high seas treaty
The Seychelles' delegation at the negotiations. (IISDENB Mike Muzurakis Team)
Seychelles and other developing countries will have the same right to access and benefit from resources found in the high seas through a new United Nations high seas agreement.
Member states of the UN agreed on a text for the setting up of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at the fifth intergovernmental conference of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) in New York on March 4 in New York,
Marie-May Jeremie, the chief executive of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), who was part of the Seychelles delegation, told SNA on Friday that "for the first time there is a mechanism that is being established to preserve what we call 'high seas,' which for us are the places outside our EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone]."
She said that the BBNJ will allow Seychelles and other countries to consider putting in place protected areas on the high seas.
The BBNJ Treaty, also called the Treaty of the High Seas, is an international agreement that aims to preserve and sustainably use the marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. This includes the high seas, which are outside of countries' exclusive economic zones and make up nearly half of the Earth's surface.
Jeremie said the benefits for Seychelles is that "we will have more possibilities to be part in research activities that take place in high seas especially. As a small island state along with other developing countries, we do not have the capacity to conduct these big researches. So, we want a system that is more equitable one in which everyone can benefit from what is called the 'common heritage of mankind."
The treaty establishes a decision-making standard that requires activities affecting high seas biodiversity -- both new activities and ones conducted under existing bodies -- to be managed to prevent, mitigate or manage significant adverse effects. It also provides for much greater transparency when an activity conducted within national jurisdiction may have impacts on the high seas.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, with 99 percent of its territory as ocean, this treaty's aims and components are of national priority.
A press statement from the Department of the Blue Economy said the BBNJ treaty may benefit Seychelles in creating high seas marine protected areas (MPAs) that will help ensure Seychelles' fisheries continue so that seafood production remains a pillar of our economy and provides food security.
Seychelles' Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Ian Madeleine said "The treaty itself amplifies some of the important initiatives that Seychelles has pioneered in relation to Area Based Management Tools and Marine Protected Areas, to a global scale in order to secure healthy oceans through international cooperation. Beyond that, with an international agreement that makes provision for capacity building and technology transfer, there is potential for Seychelles to access the means to realise its environment conservation and sustainable development priorities."
The treaty creates the foundations for Area Based Management Tools (ABMT). Through it, MPAs will be set up and environmental impact assessments, capacity building and transfer of marine technology as well as the management of marine genetic resources will be conducted on the high seas.
These will have huge implications for Seychelles since it is surrounded by water and everything that happens outside its borders is linked to its EEZ and internal coastal waters.