Ottawa Workshop: The Role of Science and a Scientific Body under the New Instrument

Date: 20th March 2019

As negotiations for a historic high seas ocean treaty continues, High Seas Alliance members have been organizing a number of meetings and events with governments and regional groups to discuss what a new high seas ocean treaty might include.

Recently, on February 5-6, Global Affairs Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the High Seas Alliance and The Pew Charitable Trusts organized a workshop that focused on the role of science and the new instrument. Governments from nearly all regions attended the workshop to share views and enhance discussions before the second session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), which will take place from the 25 March – 5 April 2019 at the United Nation headquarters in New York City.

During the two-day workshop, speakers and experts addressed the role of science and the new instrument. Dr. Paul Snelgrove, a professor at Memorial University and Associate Scientific Director at the Ocean Frontier Institute, opened the workshop by providing an overview of the current state of science in areas beyond national jurisdiction and the importance of science and scientific advice with respect to the new BBNJ instrument. The second session explored what science may be needed for each of the four main elements of the new BBNJ instrument. Dr. Andy Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists, presented an overview on the pragmatic realities of scientific support; Duncan Currie, HSA, examined environmental impact assessments; Kristina Gjerde, IUCN, presented on area-based management tools including MPAs; Dr. Marjo Vierros, UNU Institute of Advanced Studies, on marine genetic resources;  and Dr. Harriet Harden-Davies, Wollongong University, presented on capacity building and transfer of marine technology.

The third session canvassed what mechanisms already exist that could help bridge the science needed by the new BBNJ instrument. Presentations focused on the UN Regular Process for Global Report and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment (Juliette Babb-Riley – Permanent Mission of Barbados), IOC-UNESCO Ocean Biographic Information Session (Harriet Harden-Davies), UNEP Regional Seas Programme (Marjo Vierros), Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (Duncan Currie, Susanna Fuller – Oceans North), Arctic Council and Baltic Marine Protection Commission (Sara Viljanen – Ministry of Environment Finland), ISA (Ken Wong – Global Affairs Canada), Indigenous Knowledge (Ghazali Ohorella – International Indian Treaty Council, Joe Adla Kunuk – Inuit Circumpolar Council), multilateral environmental agreements (Sarah Fowler – Save our Seas Foundation, Denzil Miller – Former Scientific Committee Chair, CCAMLR) and civil society (Kristina Gjerde – Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative and Essam Yassin Mohammed – IIED). This session provided participants with a better understanding of the resources and institutions already available with regards to science in ABNJ from which BBNJ could eventually draw, and an opportunity to review and learn from precedents.

After having reviewed the science and science functions that may be needed for the new instrument and what mechanisms/resources already exist that could help carry out those functions, experts and representatives completed the workshop with an informal discussion on (i) conclusions to be drawn for the new BBNJ agreement; (ii) what a new science body could look like under the agreement; and (iii) what it would be tasked to do. An overview of workshop discussions will be presented at a side event that High Seas Alliance will co-host with the Government of Canada and Pew Charitable Trusts, entitled “The Role of Science and a Scientific Body Under the New Instrument” on Monday, April 1 in CR4. Please join us there!

Posted on Categories UN Negotiations