Government representatives from over 30 States around the world will convene in Lisbon, (5-6 March 2019) at the invitation of the Portuguese government. Bringing together national and international negotiators, scholars, and policy experts, the meeting is designed to help find solutions to outstanding areas of concern around the establishment of a new high seas biodiversity treaty, negotiations for which will continue at the United Nations (UN) later in March.
The treaty, which will take the form of a new legally-binding agreement to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), could bring much needed protection to the ocean beyond national jurisdiction. It is a major focus for achieving ocean conservation ahead of the second UN Ocean Conference to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 which will take place in Lisbon next year.
The Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has convened the Lisbon workshop to provide an opportunity for discussion outside of the formal negotiations.
The high seas 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 ocean and planet as a whole. Tiago Pitta e Cunha, CEO of Oceano Azul Foundation which is hosting the event said “The inexorable degradation of the ocean natural system, which has increased considerably this century, has not been accompanied by an upgrade in international legislation addressing ocean conservation. In these circumstances, The High Seas Treaty is a critical step in the right direction. This is why the Oceano Azul Foundation is proud of being able to associate itself to the organization of this meeting in the Oceanário de Lisboa.”
After a decade of discussions at the United Nations and a series of UN Resolutions, world governments have entered into formal treaty negotiations taking place at the United Nations that would put into place legal protection for marine life in the high seas. The next negotiating session is scheduled to take place at the end of March (25 March- 5 April 2019) with two more sessions slated for August this year, and spring 2020.
The event is organized by the Ministry in association with The Oceano Azul Foundation, the High Seas Alliance, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and with the support of the Adessium Foundation. The meeting is being held at the Oceanario de Lisboa, and the aim of all the organisers is to enable solutions to outstanding concerns be explored and discussed.
During the event, international big wave explorer and surfing legend Garrett McNamara urged governments to protect the ocean through a UN high seas treaty and shared his personal experience witnessing successful ocean conservation measures.
Watch his full speech here:
Cover photo by High Seas Alliance