These areas, which make up 64% of the oceans’ surface, and 90% of their volume, are currently unprotected.
This Tuesday, the European Union (EU) and its Member States submitted a proposal to the United Nations (UN) to start an international process to conserve marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Oceana, which has worked for years on the conservation and protection of deep-sea habitats and species, welcomes the EU initiative to tackle the complete lack of protection for resources in the high seas.
“In light of the alarming state of the world's oceans, Oceana highly values the EU’s commitment to conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction”, stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “However, this proposal should not remain a mere declaration of intent. Every country under the umbrella of United Nations, must take its share of the responsibility to protect the high seas, which cover some 64 % of the surface of our oceans and provide over 90% of its volume.”
The proposal presented by the Lithuanian presidency of the EU seeks to negotiate an international agreement under the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) focusing on conserving the high seas biodiversity. It follows the commitment reached at Rio+20 along with the already established commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The proposal’s adoption would establish a clear political mandate to move forward with the conservation of ecosystems in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including through the establishment of marine protected areas or standards for evaluating the impacts of human activities. This call echoes the French government’s recent demand to adopt a binding agreement as soon as possible (Paris’ Appeal for the High Sea).
“The Mediterranean Sea would greatly benefit from this international agreement, as roughly 46% of it falls under international jurisdiction. Immediate action at the international level is required to deal with its overexploited fisheries and increasing offshore industrial activities for minerals or genetic resources,” added Pilar Marin, MedNet project coordinator and marine scientist at Oceana. “We launched Oceana´s MedNet proposal in 2011, to encourage the international community to tackle the existing gap in protection, which currently ignores the high seas”.
The EU is urging the specialized ad-hoc UN working group to start discussing this opportunity at its next meeting in New-York on August 19th.