Statement on the Occasion of the Our Ocean Conference

Date: 15th May 2014

The High Seas Alliance and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition member organizations urge United States Secretary Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference to include a discussion of a new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction, presently being considered at the United Nations.

The High Seas Alliance and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition member organizations welcome United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s continued active involvement in ocean issues.  The “Our Ocean” Conference (16-17 June) promises to be a significant event highlighting the state of our ocean and the need for action.

As Secretary Kerry pointed out during the Economist World Ocean Summit in February and the Global Oceans Action Summit in The Hague in April, we all depend on the ocean for the essentials of life.  Every human on Earth depends on the ocean for the food we eat and for the air we breathe. It is home to countless species and diverse ecosystems. The environmental, economic, food security and global security reasons for protecting it are clear.

More than half the ocean lies beyond the jurisdiction of any one coutry – the high seas, but current governance is piecemeal, fragmented and riddled with loopholes. In this regard, the urgent need to protect biodiversity in these areas has been discussed for over a decade, and political will has been steadily growing in its support.. The only way to achieve the protection of the high seas is through what Secretary Kerry described as a global framework under which signatories cooperate.

At the same time as Secretary Kerry’s “Our Ocean” event in Washington, D.C., States will be discussing at the United Nations the development of such an international framework under the Law of the Sea Convention (16-19 June, 2014). The proposed new agreement would ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine life on the high seas, including the establishment of marine protected areas and reserves and the implementation of environmental impact assessments in these areas.

With the Rio+20 deadline for a decision to launch negotiations for such an agreement by the end of the 69th UN General Assembly quickly approaching,  a few countries  have still not indicated their commitment to negotiate. We believe that it is time for these countries to signal their intent to join the rest of the world in these important negotiations.

Greenpeace, Marviva,  Ecology Action Center, IPSO, Pretoma, Marine Conservation Institute,  Birdlife International, Tethys, OceanCare, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Marine Watch International, The TerraMar Project, the Turtle Resoration Network and the International Ocean Institute emphasize that it is crucial that this topic be included for discussion at “Our Ocean”.  The United States was a leader in the negotiation of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement – another implementing agreement  under the Law of the Sea Convention — and is a party to it as well.  We are aware of strong United States support for marine protected areas in the high seas, as well as for a clean and healthy ocean.  In the words of Secretary Kerry at the Economist World Ocean Summit, “we need a global framework of some kind by which people sign up and agree to cooperate.”  This new biodiversity agreement is the global framework that is needed to ensure protection, restoration and resilience for the world oceans.

We therefore urge Secretary Kerry to use the meeting as an opportunity to signal support for the United States’ engagement in negotiations for a new implementing agreement on marine biodiversity for the high seas. This would be a ‘game changer’ and would demonstrate the United States’ strong leadership on ocean conservation and sustainability, furthering goodwill in international negotiations.

Cover photo by High Seas Alliance 

Posted on Categories HSA in the News UN Negotiations