highseasalliance.org

Protecting the Ocean We Need - Securing the Future We Want

Since its founding in 2011, the High Seas Alliance (HSA) with its 37+ non-governmental members and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has been working towards protecting the 50% of the planet that is the high seas. As the region of the global ocean that is beyond national jurisdiction, the high seas includes some of the most biologically important, least protected, and most critically threatened ecosystems in the world.

HSA members work together to inspire, inform and engage the public, decision-makers and experts to support and strengthen high seas governance and conservation, as well as cooperating towards the establishment of high seas protected areas. 

Our current priority is to ensure that an intergovernmental conference taking place at the United Nations from 2018-2020 for the development of a new legally binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea results in robust protection for marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The next two years are a particularly critical time as States from around the world negotiate the content of the treaty.

Currently, there are no legally binding mechanisms for establishing marine protected areas outside States’ territorial seas, or for undertaking environmental impact assessments. Yet increasing impacts from overfishing, climate change, deep-seabed mining and shipping continue to negatively affect biodiversity on the high seas.

HSA is working to ensure that treaty negotiations result in robust and effective conservation measures that address gaps in current ocean governance.

UN treaty negotiations to conserve and protect nearly two thirds of the ocean re-convene today (19 August 2019), in what is widely regarded as the greatest opportunity in a generation to turn the tide on ocean degradation and biodiversity loss.

Following over a decade of discussions at the UN, this two-week session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) is the third in a series of four negotiating sessions through 2020 for a new legally-binding treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. For the first time, and at the mid-way point of the IGC, governments will engage in text-based negotiations. These negotiations are vital because currently there is no overarching legal framework for these global commons to safeguard the ocean’s marine life or its vital role in provisioning services – such as generating oxygen and regulating the climate.

In June, Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) convened a conference – A Global Agreement for the High Seas – to bring together scientific, legal, environmental and political expertise to discuss the BBNJ treaty process with key stakeholders from the United Kingdom (UK). With the UK set to leave the European Union, which negotiates as a bloc within the intergovernmental process, a strong, progressive stance from the UK government could bring a powerful new voice for high seas protection to the negotiations. 

The BLUE conference explored the governance landscape within which the current high seas negotiations sit, shared scientific and economic perspectives on high seas management, and looked at high seas issues through a human rights lens, from the perspective of the Commonwealth group of nations, as well as from a military angle. Participants were then tasked with defining how meaningful high seas protections could be shaped in the fields of politics, law, deep-sea mining and high seas management. 

With just weeks to go before IGC3, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza steamed into the Sargasso Sea in early August to begin the third leg of their ambitious Pole to Pole expedition.  Part of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign to raise global support for a new UN global ocean treaty, the nearly year-long expedition will sail from the Arctic to Antarctica, documenting special ocean places on the high seas and the threats they face.