IUCN WCPA Specialist Group Leader
Accounting for almost two-thirds of the global ocean, the high seas and seabed areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (ABNJ) play a critical role in maintaining life on Earth. But, the current framework of governance related to conservation of marine biodiversity in ABNJ is weak and is characterized by large gaps. Gaps include the absence of rules to establish cross-sectorial marine protected area (MPAs) and other effective conservation tools.
Growing threats to marine biodiversity in ABNJ stem from fishing practices, shipping and land-based sources of pollution like plastics, nutrients and noise, and the potential effects of seabed mining. In addition, increases in CO2 have resulted in rising ocean acidity, declining oxygen levels, warming waters and shifting current patterns. These combined stressors are undermining the health and resilience of marine ecosystems and species around the world. The ecological connectivity between the high seas and the waters of coastal states means that impacts on high seas ecosystems and biodiversity will harm social and ecological systems closer to shore, and that the impacts may be felt globally and across jurisdictional boundaries.
MPAs are now perceived as among the key tools for conserving biodiversity, increasing productivity and improving the resilience and ability of marine ecosystems to respond to changing oceanic biophysical conditions. The WCPA High Seas Specialist Group (SG) has been working to inform the creation of high seas MPAs for over a decade. The WCPA High Seas MPA Task Force was officially established in 2003 following the 5th IUCN World Parks Congress where marine experts formulated a 10-Year High Seas MPA Strategy.