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Protecting the Ocean We Need - Securing the Future We Want

Scientists' Support for a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement

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The High Seas Alliance is coordinating an effort to collect scientists’ support for a high seas biodiversity agreement under the UN Law of the Sea Convention. It urges countries to honor the commitment made by governments at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 Conference.

An Open Letter from International Scientists on the need for a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement (please scroll down to read the full text of the letter).

A message from Sylvia Earle:
 
I am writing to invite you to sign the attached scientists' letter calling on nations of the world to begin negotiations for a high seas biodiversity agreement. This request is intended to urge countries to honor the commitment made by the world's governments at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 Conference in the outcome document released on June 22, 2012.  
 
Many of us believe that a new high seas biodiversity agreement, based on the precautionary principle and ecosystem approach, is necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the high seas. If you agree, I urge you to join me in signing on to the attached letter to be first made publicat the June meeting of the BBNJ – 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.  This will help us drive the process at the United Nations.  

We welcome and need your support. To sign the letter, simply fill out the form below and click on the Sign the Letter button.

Thank you for your serious consideration of joining this very important effort.

We respect your privacy and will never sell or share your information. Institutional affiliations are provided for identification purposes only, and do not imply any institutional position on the governance of the high seas.


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An Open Letter from International Scientists on the need for a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement

The international waters of the high seas, and the seabed below[1], include some of the most environmentally important, critically threatened and least protected ecosystems on the planet. Amounting to 64% of the ocean and covering nearly 50% of the surface of the Earth, the high seas provide a range of ecosystem services, from driving weather systems and modulating the climate to the production of a high percentage of the oxygen we breathe - services  that  are  essential  to  us  all.  Home to unique deep sea species and ecosystems, and criss-crossed by the migratory corridors of the great ocean wanderers, such as sharks, whales, sea turtles, tunas and seabirds, the high seas are full of life that needs protection.  However, despite their importance, the high seas sit under a fragmented and ineffective management regime which tends to place short term economic interests before the long term health of our oceans.  With less than 1% of the high seas under protection, this regime has failed to evolve in response to modern scientific understanding of ocean ecosystems and the increasing impacts on those ecosystems from factors such as overfishing , climate change and ocean acidification. This patchwork  system is  entirely  inadequate  to  address  increases in  extractive  activities  taking  place  on  the  high  seas  enabled  by  rapid  advances  in  technology.

We, the undersigned scientists, believe that a new high seas biodiversity agreement, based on the precautionary principle and ecosystem approach, is necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the high seas. Such an agreement would provide the mechanism to establish, manage and monitor a global network of MPAs and marine reserves, accelerating the establishment of protected areas in line with existing global commitments. With commercial interests turning increasingly to the high seas, a biodiversity agreement would also provide a framework for the coordination of uses and activities, including effective monitoring, compliance and enforcement. Ensuring conservation and sustainable management of the oceans must be the backbone of a blue economy on which millions of people depend for their well-being and livelihoods.

Recent scientific studies have provided clear evidence of the benefits and critical importance of remote, large-scale marine reserves in the open ocean. Such areas not only preserve fish stocks, and protect vulnerable ecosystems, but also provide a baseline for understanding the changes that climate change and human pressures are causing to the oceans as a whole.

Right now there is a special opportunity for the international community to begin negotiations for a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement.  At the Rio +20 Summit in June 2012, the world’s governments committed to "address, on an urgent basis, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under UNCLOS" [2] We call on all nations to take these negotiations forward with urgency and determination. 

(The scientists who have signed this letter have done so in their personal capacities.  Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes and do not imply any institutional position on the governance of the high seas.)

 

[1] This letter concerns the international waters that lie beyond any country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the ocean seabed that lies beyond the continental shelf of any country.

[2] (para. 162, The Future We Want).