High Seas BBNJ Workshop in Lisbon

Date: 16th March 2017

In a pivotal year for ocean protection, government representatives from over 40 countries convened in Lisbon on the 2nd and 3rd of March, at the invitation of the Portuguese government, to discuss a new treaty to protect the high seas.

Bringing together national and international negotiators, scholars, lawyers and policy experts, the meeting was designed to explore solutions to outstanding areas of concern around the establishment of a new high seas marine biodiversity treaty. Such a treaty would take the form of a new legally-binding agreement to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The high seas, the ocean beyond national jurisdiction, covers half the planet but there are not enough measures in place to effectively govern and protect it, despite its vital contribution to the functioning of the planet as a whole. UN General Assembly Resolution 69/292 established a process to develop a new legally binding instrument and States are committed to complete a preparatory process towards a decision on the opening of a formal treaty negotiation by September 2018. The two final UN preparatory committee meetings to achieve this occur in New York in March and July of this year.

During the workshop, Dr. Callum Roberts, of the University of York presented his research on the current state of the ocean and the role of MPAs, including marine reserves, in conserving marine biodiversity.

This was followed by a presentation from Ms. Kristina Gjerde, Sr. High Seas Advisor, IUCN on the options for advancing the use of area-based management tools (ABMT) and the potential role and value of marine spatial planning in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

During this session Professor Ronan Long, Nippon Foundation Professorial Chair of Ocean Governance and the Law of the Sea, also spoke to the specific challenges of enforcing and monitoring ABMTs.

This productive workshop wrapped up with key discussions around the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas and the measures needed to ensure successful negotiations in the next PrepCom. As one delegate stated, “Ask not what BBNJ can do for you, ask what you can do for BBNJ.”

The third PrepCom will take place at the UN Headquarters in New York City from March 27th to April 7th. For more information on the presentations from this workshop or about the upcoming PrepCom please contact: 

The event was organized by the Ministry in association with the High Seas Alliance and the Pew Charitable Trusts, with support from the Portuguese Diplomatic Institute, the Blue Ocean Foundation and the Adessium Foundation. The aim of the organisers is to achieve the launch of an Intergovernmental Conference to conclude negotiations for a robust and far reaching treaty. 

Cover photo by High Seas Alliance

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