High Seas Alliance Newsletter – Spring 2020

Date: 23rd March 2020

Dear Ocean Friends,

We are in the midst of unprecedented global health threats that require all of us to recalibrate, and find new ways to approach our work, our communities and our social lives.  In the midst of the postponement of the fourth and final-slated session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC4) to negotiate a legally binding treaty under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), the ocean is still facing unprecedented threats from human activities.  It is all the more important to use this extended intersessional period as an opportunity to progress negotiations on the President’s draft text.  While the date for IGC4 is yet to be determined, the High Seas Alliance is prepared to support new and innovative ways of working during these challenging times. We must work together, continue the momentum and keep ambition high so that we can conclude IGC4 with a treaty that delivers long-awaited protection for marine life in our high seas.

And it has not been a short journey.  From 2002, when the initial rumblings of a potential new treaty to protect 2/3 of the world’s ocean began, to the breakthrough ‘Package’ elements agreed upon in 2011, to Preparatory Committee meetings in 2016-17, and formal treaty negotiations from September 2018 to 2020 – nearly 20 years — we are on the cusp of transformative change on how our ocean is managed.  Over the past 20 years, many changes have occurred, especially the health of the global ocean. The need for an ambitious high seas treaty is stronger now than ever before as the ocean continues to face debilitating effects from overfishing and illegal fishing, noise, plastic and chemical pollution, as well as from climate change, including ocean warming and acidification, deoxygenation. These cumulative stressors are threatening the ability of the ocean to sustain itself, and us. 

Since 2011, the  High Seas Alliance has advocated for an ambitious treaty that goes beyond the current status quo and moves us towards a healthier ocean. High Seas Alliance members have been working throughout the intersessional period with UN and government representatives, scientists and ocean stakeholders in numerous workshops and meetings to ensure that we cross the finish line at IGC4.  Some of this work is detailed in this newsletter.  Our recommendations on the President’s Draft Text can be viewed here

After decades of discussions at the United Nations and in world capitals, the recent postponement of IGC4 must not hinder our ambition and the progress that we have made to date. This treaty is a once in a generation opportunity for transformative change for the ocean and we look forward to working with all ocean stakeholders in the coming months to make that a reality in 2020.  In the meantime, we hope you and your families stay healthy!

One Ocean, One Planet, One Treaty.

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Cover Photo by Thom Schneider on Unsplash

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