U.N. Acts on High Seas Biodiversity Treaty

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Published Jun 21, 2015 11:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has adopted a formal resolution to develop a legally-binding treaty for the conservation of marine biodiversity on the high seas.

The resolution identifies “the need for the comprehensive global regime to better address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).”

The treaty has been proposed to include conservation measures such as marine protected areas and reserves, environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements, control of access to marine genetic resources and benefit sharing, capacity building and the transfer of marine technology.

The oceans contain a vast diversity of life forms, many of which are still being discovered. Some scientists estimate that over 100 million species inhabit the high seas.

This marine life is poorly understood, and scientific knowledge to guide management is very limited. There are many examples of severe, and potentially irreversible, damage to the biodiversity and environment of the high seas under present management and jurisdictional arrangements.

The World Ocean Council says that the U.N. resolution is the first global treaty process related to the ocean in over two decades and the only one targeted specifically on the protection and sustainable use of marine biodiversity.

The resolution follows the Rio+20 conference in 2012 where heads of state committed to address high seas protection.

A U.N. working group worked for two years to take a decision on whether or not to open up a new negotiating conference for a this new treaty.

The resolution allows for a two-year preparatory process to develop the treaty elements, from 2016-2017, with a decision whether to convene a formal treaty negotiating conference in 2018.