Pacific Islands Forum Chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown has welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations on the key substantive issues that will frame a new International Treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas.

Brown said the finalisation of the BBNJ instrument is a significant step in the right direction for all humankind.

“As Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I call for the adoption and ratification of this important agreement to be fast tracked. We support the United Nations’ vision to lay the foundation for a rapid, effective and equitable implementation.

“Our Pacific people are the custodians of the largest Ocean on this earth and the health of our Ocean remains a key priority for our region and our Forum Family,” PM Brown said in a statement.

Nearly two thirds of the ocean lies outside national boundaries on the high seas, where fragmented and unevenly enforced rules fail to safeguard high seas marine biodiversity for the benefit of present and future generations, he said.

“Once adopted, this treaty closes a legal vacuum that has existed for too long, on the effective governance of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The BBNJ instrument exerts a level of accountability and certainty on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction that is linked to a monetary and non-monetary benefit-sharing regime.

“When this treaty enters into force, we as ocean states, will be further empowered to sustainably and equitably manage and protect the high seas and its resources. We look forward to collaboratively making the overexploitation of marine resources a thing of the past as we actively create protected areas in the high seas with the aim to conserve 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.

“With the final adoption of the treaty text to come, I encourage all Members’ to carefully plan the next steps that lay ahead, as the real work has only just begun,” he said.

Brown also congratulated Pacific negotiators for ensuring a successful conclusion to this process.

“As people of the ocean, our Governments’ have continued to demonstrate leadership when it comes to the ocean and international law. I look forward to working with Forum Leaders to see this process through to adoption in the near future,” said Forum Chair Brown.