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High Seas Governance: Challenges & BBNJ Treaty Solutions



  Mar 06, 2024

Navigating the High Seas: Governance Challenges and the BBNJ Treaty


1. What are the high seas?

The high seas are defined as all parts of the ocean that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, territorial sea, or internal waters of any country, nor in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic country. They represent areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
 

2. How much of the ocean do the high seas cover?

The high seas account for about 64% of the ocean's surface and are considered one of the most biologically productive areas, hosting a significant portion of marine life.
 

3. What is the exclusive economic zone (EEZ)?

The exclusive economic zone is a sea zone extending up to 200 nautical miles from a country's coast, where the country has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.
 

4. What is "the Area" in the context of high seas governance?

"The Area" refers to the seafloor beyond the limits of coastal countries' continental shelves, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It is managed for the benefit of humankind by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
 

5. What role does the International Seabed Authority (ISA) play?

The ISA is mandated to regulate the exploration for and exploitation of seabed mineral resources in "the Area" to ensure they are conducted for the benefit of all humankind.
 

6. What are some challenges in governing the high seas?

High seas governance is fragmented, with various regional and sectoral organizations managing different activities like fishing and shipping, leading to challenges in creating cohesive management and protection strategies.
 

7. What is the Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty (BBNJ treaty)?

The BBNJ treaty is an internationally legally binding instrument being negotiated under UNCLOS to improve the management and protection of marine biodiversity in the high seas, focusing on conservation, sustainable use of marine resources, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, and capacity building.
 

8. What might the governance structure of the BBNJ treaty look like?

It is anticipated that the BBNJ treaty will establish a Conference of the Parties (COP) with centralized decision-making power over certain aspects of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in ABNJ.

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