The high seas — also called international waters — comprise 64% of the world’s oceans and 45% of the earth’s surface. They are shared by the world but governed by no one country. That means that the incredible biodiversity of the high seas, from seaweeds to fish to sharks, is not currently protected.
POLICY BRIEF: Deep, distant and dynamic: critical considerations for incorporating the open-ocean into a new BBNJ treaty
To ensure a robust new International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI) for the high seas, adequate attention will need to be placed on how the governance structures can address both fragile, static deep-sea ecosystems and immense, highly dynamic open-ocean ecosystems. In this policy brief we provide examples of open-ocean ecosystems, their importance to coastal States, and considerations of how to ensure the robust conservation and sustainable use of dynamic pelagic systems and biological diversity under a new ILBI.
Due to the expansion of fishing practices, fish catches have become stagnant at best while global fishing efforts continue to grow, ultimately creating major stresses on marine resources. Fisheries impacts on both coastal and deep-sea ecosystems are well understood and documented; however, the biological and ecological impacts of fishing on open-ocean systems are not well studied or documented.
POLICY BRIEF: Adjacency: How legal precedent, ecological connectivity, and Traditional Knowledge inform our understanding of proximity
Pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), all States have customary and treaty obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment and its resources. Several countries have expressed an interest in the question of whether States could properly assert priority over the conservation of areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) adjacent to their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The term “adjacency”, with respect to maritime coastal boundaries, refers to a State’s spatial proximity with the open ocean and deep sea in ABNJ.