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  • Writer's pictureScience & Environment

Chile becomes second country to ratify UN Ocean treaty

A Follow-Up Article, as Chile Reaffirms its Commitment to Marine Conservation

By Anastasia Goelitz

One of Chile’s beautiful coastal views: Puerto Natales by Deensel via Flickr

A recent article highlighted some of Chile’s commitments to marine protection, among them the passing of the Benthonic Act, a law that aims to preserve important underwater forests. Shortly before the article was published, Chile became the first country to announce its ratification of the UN Ocean Treaty, another major step in the country’s leadership in ocean conservation.

On January 16, the Chilean Senate voted unanimously to ratify the treaty - formally validating their commitment to the agreement. Chile also offered Valparaiso, a coastal city, as the secretariat of the agreement’s headquarters. However, before the vote of the Senate came into effect, Chile was overtaken by Palau. The island nation deposited its ratification with the United Nations on January 22 and became the first country to officially ratify.

The Ocean Treaty, officially the ‘Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction’, is an international agreement between 193 countries that will provide the legal framework for the international pledge to protect 30% of the high seas by 2030, also known as the ‘30x30 pledge’. The high seas are the ocean beyond countries’ maritime borders; they are commonly shared and managed but generally lack effective governance. Only about one per cent of the high seas is protected to date, leaving the remainder vulnerable to overexploitation, climate change and pollution. With the legalisation of the treaty, this could change significantly for the first time. 

Negotiations for the treaty started in 2004; and after nearly 20 years and several failed rounds of talks, the United Nations member states finally reached an agreement in March 2023. The treaty was officially adopted last June and signed by 84 countries in September. However, it will only be legally binding once at least 60 countries have ratified it. The member states of the United Nations have until June 2025 to deposit their ratifications, or the treaty will not come into force. So far, only Palau and Chile have ratified the agreement. The NGO Greenpeace has created an interactive map to monitor the progress of ratification.

Throughout the negotiations, Chile (among other countries in the Global South) has shown a strong commitment to reaching this agreement, taking a leading role, and reinforcing its dedication to marine conservation. This commitment was further shown through their fast ratification, which has set an example for other countries to follow quickly. The UK government is currently reviewing the ocean treaty, which has promised to ratify “as soon as possible”. It is the most significant framework since the Paris Agreement, with an ambitious time plan that will bring ocean protection to unprecedented scales: it is an opportunity not to be missed.


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