High Seas Alliance Addresses States at UN BBNJ Meeting on Day 1

Date: 1st April 2014

On the first day of the UN BBNJ meeting the High Seas Alliance addressed state delegates through an intervention and stressed the urgent need for a high seas biodiversity implementing agreement.
You can read the full intervention statements from the High Seas Alliance as well as the IUCN and Greenpeace below.

High Seas Alliance intervention, presented by Jessica Battle, WWF International Marine Manager

Honorable Co-Chairs, delegates,

This intervention is being given on behalf of the High Seas Alliance and the Deep Sea Conservation which together represent some 100 organizations, including WWF, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Natural Resource Defence Council and Greenpeace and millions of supporters worldwide.

We are pleased that this discussion on scope, parameters and feasibility is underway.

The IPCC Working Group II report released yesterday underlined the threats to the oceans from climate change and ocean acidification and endorsed the scientific need for marine protected areas.

Our increasing  impact on the oceans have put cumulative stresses that threaten the oceans, its vulnerable life and ecosystems, and with effects on people and socio-economic costs.  We now know that unilateral action by individual countries and regional actions cannot alone solve this in areas beyond national jurisdiction. That is why we are here.

We have listened with great interest to the discussion today. We are encouraged by the constructive contributions of States to the scope, parameters and feasibility discussion, and look forward to discussions progressing throughout the week.

We welcome the Legal Counsel’s comments on the role of civil society and look forward to a constructive and transparent meeting.

In order to further facilitate discussions, the High Seas Alliance will hold a side event on Wednesday at 1:15 pm in this room on filling the governance gaps.

Lastly, We also welcome delegates to a reception tonight at 6:15 pm in the Delegates Dining Room, with guest speakers Dr Steve Palumbi and Dr Jennifer Jacquet, with appetizers and refreshments. We hope you will join us.

Greenpeace intervention presented by Sofia Tsenikli, Senior Oceans Policy Advisor 

Thank you co-chairs,

I am speaking on behalf of Greenpeace.

This morning Greenpeace volunteers and New York University students joined forces outside of the UN gates to send a message in favor of ocean protection to the delegates of the BBNJ working group. Their message highlighted that overexploitation is emptying the oceans and threatening food security – as scientists warn overfishing, destructive fishing practices and the impacts of climate change will soon leave little but jellyfish and plankton in the sea for future generations to eat. Ocean Sanctuaries are needed to protect and restore ocean balance and increase its resilience from cumulative impacts.

We have listened to State’s opening statements and welcome those that have repeated that the status quo is not acceptable as well as their support for the launch of negotiations of an UNCLOS implementing agreement before the Rio+20 deadline. The status quo that has led to the current ocean crisis has largely been built on years of short-term thinking and has been driven by short-term profits, but it comes at a great price to people around the planet that live from the sea today, and it comes as a great price to our children and their lives in the future. This critical reality must be the starting point of the deliberations in the coming days on the scope, parameters and the feasibility of changing the status quo – that is, ending the ocean crisis for the benefit of all.

Greenpeace, our 3 million members in over 40 countries, and many more active supporters across the world, is urging you to work together this week and set a solid basis for the negotiation of a strong and effective agreement within the timeline set by Rio+20. There is simply no sustainable future for our planet and its people without living oceans.

To mark the start of this meeting and the preparatory process towards a decision by the UNGA on an UNCLOS implementing agreement, Greenpeace launched a global petition today in support of ocean sanctuaries – the messages to you delegates from people around the world are multiplying by the minute, the expectations for a positive
outcome for the oceans are high. We hope these messages from your constituencies will provide inspiration for constructive and transparent deliberations in the coming days.

Thank you.

IUCN intervention presented by Kristina GjerdeSenior High Seas Advisor


IUCN is grateful for the substantive contributions we have heard this morning on ways to address, on an urgent basis, the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released yesterday indeed underlines the urgency for action to collectively confront the challenges facing marine areas beyond national jurisdiction in the face of the mounting impacts of climate change, ocean acidification and deoxygenenation. These impacts come atop an already stressed ocean from mounting human use.

Despite some progress in recent years in some sectoral organizations and some regions, as many have stated, business as usual is no longer sufficient. On a more positive note, we are pleased at the growing convergence of views on many issues here, and hope that a common understanding can be reached on the scope, parameters and feasibility of a new international instrument under UNCLOS in the days and months ahead to enable rapid progress to be made.

To provide technical input into the ongoing ABNJ discussions, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with different partners has prepared a series of policy briefs on topics ranging from mechanisms to improve cooperation and cooperation to options for addressing access and benefit sharing of marine genetic resources and for establishing and managing marine protected areas in ABNJ.

At the IUCN side event on Thursday we will introduce these documents and invite you all to attend. We will have hard copies available for distribution. The documents are already available online at the IUCN environment law program website and will soon be made available on the DOALOS website.

High Seas Alliance intervention presented by Duncan Currie, Legal and Political Advisor

RE: Role of Fish: How should an IA take into account fisheries?

Thank you co-chairs

This intervention is for Greenpeace and The High Seas alliance and DSCC

In listening to the very interesting and constructive discussion on the role of fisheries in an implementing agreement, four considerations arise.

1.The importance of cumulative impact assessments, taking into account climate change, ocean acidification and other stressors.

2.The mandate of RFMOs is limited to certain fish stocks and do not extend to the conservation and sustainable use of all marine biodiversity in ABNJ. The objective of the Fish Stocks Agreement is stated in article 2 to “ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks” through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention. Put simply, RFMOs manage fish, taking into account the ecosystem approach. They do not manage all biodiversity. The most RFMOs have been prepared to go, for this reason, – with the exception of CCAMLR – is to establish open and closed areas to fishing, regulate the way fishing can take place, or to regulate the times that fishing can take place. These are far short of a full MPA.

3.There is a need to address multiple impacts, such as protecting vulnerable marine areas from multiple impacts from seabed mining and bottom trawling and shipping.

4.By way of suggestions:

  • The scope of the implementing agreement should be designed to complement the UNFSA. There should be recognition of the UNFSA, which is also an UNCLOS implementing agreement.
  • The implementing agreement should recognize existing international agreements and international organizations.
  • No sectoral activities, including fishing, should be excluded from the scope of the implementing agreement.
  • As Argentina and others have said, the question is not whether fisheries or other sectors are in or out, but how they can be best brought into a more integrated approach.

Cover photo by Matthew Hume on Unsplash

Posted on Categories HSA in the News UN Negotiations