The long and winding road continues: Towards a new agreement on high seas governance

logoiddriIDDRI’s latest publication, The long and winding road continues: Towards a new agreement on high seas governance, available here:  
The first session of the Preparatory Committee charged with developing elements of an instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) will commence on March 28 at UN headquarters.bThis publication is a detailed guide to the upcoming negotiations, useful for both newcomers and experienced participants. It provides some background on the law of the sea and current governance arrangements for ABNJ before discussing: gaps in the current framework; the history of the international discussions; State positions to date; and some challenges that may arise during negotiations. 

A much shorter Issue Brief of 4 pages is also available:

EUCC contributes to the International Ocean Consultation consultation

EUCC has recently participated in the DG MARE consultation on International Ocean Consultation, pointing out, among others, that Gaps in the existing international ocean governance framework (and inadequate vertical and horizontal co-ordination between existing institutions and sectors). In particular, there are distinct gaps regarding climate impacts and ocean acidification, and lack of sufficient consideration of information, data and science on oceans, climate and acidification.

You can read the full document here: EUCC Ocean Gov Consultation_October 2015

The aim of this consultation is to gather input on how the EU could contribute to achieving better international governance of oceans and seas to the benefit of sustainable blue growth. On the basis of the results and other sources of data and information, the European Commission will consider how best to develop a more coherent, comprehensive and effective EU policy on improving the international ocean governance framework.

Protecting the Untamed Seas

Source: The New York Times

On the high seas — which cover more than 40 percent of the planet’s surface — there is no legal framework for creating protected areas. Even if they wanted to, countries have no formal process for setting aside protected marine parks in international waters. Over the next two years, the United Nations intends to change that.

SUPPOSE a group of scientists wanted to dump 100 tons of iron dust into the sea based on a controversial climate-change theory that the ore might spur the growth of plankton that absorb carbon dioxide. They can — one businessman did that in 2012.

Imagine if entrepreneurial engineers hoping to save clients millions of dollars were able to launch rockets into space from a platform in the middle of the ocean, far away from curious onlookers, heavy taxes and strict on-land regulations. They can — a company has been doing this for over a decade.

And what if pharmaceutical companies decide to rake the ocean floor for the next wonder drug, with minimal environmental oversight and no obligation to make the profits, research or resulting medicines public? They can — the research is already happening.

All of this is possible because the waters farther than 200 nautical miles from shore are generally outside of national jurisdiction and largely beyond government control. More than 40 percent of the planet’s surface is covered by water that belongs to everyone and no one, and is relatively lawless and unregulated.

Over the next two years, though, the United Nations intends to change this reality. After nearly a decade of discussion, it ratified a resolution in June to begin drafting the first treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas.

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What should countries do with thousands of offshore oil and gas drilling rigs built during a boom in the 1980s that will soon reach retirement age and require decommissioning?

Source: The New York Times

Among the ideas being considered: sinking, removing or repurposing them in a variety of ways including offshore super-max prisons, scuba hotels, marine science schools, fish farm hubs, wind, solar or tidal power stations.

The Seaventures Dive Rig is a hotel and scuba school on a converted oil rig in the western Pacific near Borneo. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

ON A PLATFORM IN THE CELEBES SEA — IN the next several years, thousands of offshore oil and gas drilling rigs, many of them built during a global construction boom in the 1970s and ’80s, will reach retirement age and require decommissioning. Countries will have to decide whether to sink, remove or repurpose them.

While few proposals have been put in practice, there is no shortage of ideas for alternative uses of the platforms: supermax prisons, private homes, scuba schools, fish farms, windmill stations.

Unlike earlier generations of offshore rigs, which tended to be fewer, smaller and closer to shore, the ones being retired now are bigger, more numerous and spread much more broadly across the globe. Most of these retirement-ready platforms are too old for heavy industrial use, like drilling, but not necessarily old enough to demand full removal.

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Governments to expand UNCLOS with new legally binding agreement on biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction


By Magdalena A K Muir
World governments agreed last week that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should be expanded to include a new legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). The new ocean regulations include: area-based management tools, such as marine planning and marine protected areas, environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements, the transfer of marine technology,  and the regime for managing marine genetic resources, including benefit-sharing.
The decision to recommend proceeding with the new legally binding instrument on biodiversity in the ABNJ under UNCLOS emanated from the U.N.’s 9th meeting of the “Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the ABNJ” (New York, 20-23 January 2015). Governments recommended that they meet to develop the draft text of a legally binding instrument, and that the U.N. General Assembly decides at its 72nd session on convening a formal intergovernmental conference to finalize the new ocean laws.
More information:
Global Environmental Facility for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
UNESCO : Oceans and Law of Sea webpage
Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group