The ocean is home to millions of species, many of which are still unknown to humans. It supplies us with oxygen and each year absorbs nearly 25% of the greenhouse gases we produce by burning fossil fuels. However, vast areas of the high seas, which cover nearly half of the Earth’s surface, remain unregulated.
Far from every shore, beyond the jurisdiction of any country, lie the vast high seas, full of life and biodiversity. They cover nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the world’s ocean and harbor life, ranging from whales, turtles, sharks, and dolphins to deep-sea corals, hydrothermal vents, and, experts believe, a variety of undiscovered sea life.
Today the high seas face increasing threats from human activities, including fishing, pollution, and seabed mining, but there is no comprehensive conservation mechanism in place to protect the biodiversity that thrives in these waters and maintain a healthy ocean.
That could soon change. From March 25 to April 5, governments will reconvene at United Nations headquarters in New York to continue negotiations on the first treaty to protect the high seas by 2020.
The latest technical paper on catch documentation schemes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), discusses how such schemes benefit, or could benefit, deep-sea fisheries by protecting them from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The ecological sustainability of fishing in the deep sea, in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), rose to the attention of the member States of the United Nations and elicited action in 2004 and then more strongly in 2006 (Gianni et al., 2011). Mounting evidence of the effects of fishing in the deep sea, such as the destruction of deep sea coral communities at sites around the globe, and the slow growth, time to maturity and tremendous age reached by some species of deep sea fish, caused many to consider the sustainability of common fishing practices.
A landmark resolution was adopted earlier today by a consensus of UN member states, to develop a legally-binding treaty for the conservation of marine life beyond national territorial waters – that area of the ocean shared by all. Resolution UNGA 99/292 formalizes the recommendations made last January by the UN Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (“UN Working Group”) which was tasked with assessing the feasibility of a new treaty, and signals a major step forward toward convening an intergovernmental negotiating conference that would finalize the terms of the new treaty, possibly in 2018.
The seventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) convened from 1-4 April 2014 at UN Headquarters in New York.
The DSCC spoke during the Plenary Session entitled Improving Governance of Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: Development of Management Options during the final day of the Fifth Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France 3-7 May 2010.
Members of the DSCC attending the ad hoc informal working group on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, which opened at the United Nations yesterday (1st February 2010), made the following intervention:
Since our last update in April, there is much to report with regard to protection of biodiversity in deep-sea ecosystems on the high seas. To name a few highlights: NAFO agreed on measures to implement provisions in the UNGA Sustainable Fisheries Resolution (61/105) on high seas bottom fishing; the 9th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity endorsed scientific criteria that will be important for establishing marine protected areas in the high seas; the FAO has published an updated draft of the international guidelines for managing deep-sea fisheries and the high seas (to be finalized in August); and countries are beginning to implement interim measures in the South Pacific. The DSCC is encouraged by progress in some areas towards meeting the obligations set out in 61/105, though the devil will be in the implementation details.