Lessons Learned from Regional and Sectoral Organizations for Conservation in ABNJ

As negotiations progress for a new international legally binding instrument (‘Instrument’) on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), the relationship of this new BBNJ Instrument to existing regional and sectoral organizations remains a point of intense debate. The new Instrument presents an opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of existing relevant legal instruments and organizations and bring forward a more coherent and comprehensive approach to the protection and conservation of marine biodiversity in the high seas.

This briefing offers examples from existing regional and sectoral organizations to illustrate systemic challenges to conserving biodiversity in ABNJ under the current fragmented ocean governance system. These challenges include: (i) implementation of the ecosystem and precautionary approach; (ii) cooperation and communication across sectors; (iii) adherence to scientific advice; (iv) achieving consensus on decisions needed to protect biodiversity; (v) considering climate change impacts in management decisions; and (vi) inadequate implementation of States’ obligations to conduct environmental impact

The biodiversity in ABNJ – which comprise nearly half the planet – is under siege from human activities as never before, including from overfishing and pirate fishing, plastics and noise pollution, the effects of climate change including ocean
acidification and coral bleaching, and the prospect of new and emerging uses and deep seabed mining. Clearly, urgent action is needed.

1 Understanding the dynamics of current regional and sectoral bodies with mandates relevant to ABNJ can highlight governance gaps that the future Instrument might address in order to improve the biodiversity and health of the ocean in ABNJ.