Fisheries

Progress towards international agreement to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable fisheries at the high seas

Progress towards international agreement to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable fisheries at the high seas

Progress towards international agreement to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable fisheries at the high seas

The first round of negotiations on an international law to preserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity at the high seas has ended today in New York. The EU, a strong advocate of international ocean governance, was the original proponent of this treaty.

European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella expressed his satisfaction with the negotiations:

This week’s negotiations mark a significant step towards international protection of marine biodiversity on the high seas.  They also promote its sustainable use. The EU remains fully committed to delivering an effective legal instrument, with universal application, as soon as possible. Only with such an agreement can the global community deliver on the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.”.

The high seas – or ‘areas beyond national jurisdiction’ as they are officially called – constitute nearly two-thirds of the world ocean and 95 percent of its volume. Falling outside the control of national governments, these vast ocean waters have been victim of the tragedy of the commons: unsustainable fisheries, pollution, waste dumping... With increasing pressure from global economic development and population growth, an international legal instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – the ‘constitution for the oceans’ – is more needed than ever.

The first session of the Intergovernmental Conference tasked to elaborate this international agreement, attracted a very high level of participation. More than 170 States, international government organisations, civil society representatives, academia and industry were present, and the atmosphere was constructive.

The negotiations lasted one week and were held around the four elements of the future instrument

  • marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits
  • area based management tools, including marine protected areas
  • environmental impact assessments, and
  • capacity building and transfer of marine technology

The next round of negotiations will take place between 25 March and 5 April 2019.