Environmental Law

Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

Seamount of the highseas in the Indian ocean

At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), States committed themselves "to address, on an urgent basis [...] the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."

Following a two year Preparatory Committee process, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 72/249 (24 December 2017) to convene an intergovernmental conference (IGC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The first three sessions of the IGC took place in New York, 4 to 17 September 2018, 25 March to 5 April 2019 and 19 to 30 August 2019. The fourth session is taking place from 23 March to 3 April 2020.

IUCN is dedicated to supporting this process. In collaboration with different partners from around the world, IUCN has prepared a series of resources and tools for negotiators and others involved in the discussions.  The resources address the four main elements of the instrument: 1) marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits; 2) measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; 3) environmental impact assessments; and 4) capacity building and the transfer of marine technology. They also address issues such as general principles, definitions, responsibility and compensation, and institutional and financial arrangements.

Through the development of resources, as well as engagement through workshops, capacity building and advice, IUCN aims to provide technical input to the ongoing BBNJ discussions and support the UN decision-making process.

Please address correspondence and comments to elcsecretariat@iucn.org.

Also visit International Ocean Governance under the Marine and polar theme.

Comments on draft text

The IUCN Environmental Law Center worked with Kristina Gjerde and Cymie Payne, the WCEL (IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law) Oceans, Coasts and Coral Reefs Specialist Group Chair, to finalise the comments on the new draft BBNJ text.

                                        IUCN comments 2020 >> Download

                                        IUCN comments 2019 >> Download


IUCN Workshop “Area-Based  Management Tools in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction” (ABMTs in ABNJ) from 8-10 October, 2019 in Gland, Switzerland

Area-Based Management Tools in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction:Building ambition, broadening participation and planning ahead – Full report

Area-Based Management Tools in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction:Building ambition, broadening participation and planning ahead – Summary report


Relevant publications

A preliminary analysis of the draft high seas biodiversity treaty
Cremers, K., Rochette, J., Wright, G., Gjerde, K., Harde-Davies H.
IDDRI Study No.1/2020

Strengthening Monitoring, Control and Surveillance in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
Cremers, K., Wright, G., Rochette J.
STRONG High Seas Project (2020)

Towards ecosystem-based management of the global ocean: Strengthening regional cooperation through a new high seas treaty
Gjerde, K. and Wright, G.
STRONG High Seas Project (2019)

High Hopes for the High Seas: beyond the package deal towards an ambitious treaty
Glen Wright, Klaudija Cremers, Julien Rochette et al.

Draft Guidance for safeguarding ecological corridors in the context of ecological networks for conservation

Rethinking the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction – From ‘Not Undermine’ to Ecosystem-Based Governance
Vito de Lucia
K. G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea. The Artic University of the Sea. Vol 8. Issue 4 (2019)

The Ecosystem Approach and the BBNJ Negotiations
Vito de Lucia
K. G. Jebsen Center for the Law of the Sea, UiT Arctic University of Norway, July 2019, 23pp.

From Outer Space to Ocean Depths: The ‘Spacecraft Cemetery’ and the Protection of the Marine Environment in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
De Lucia, Vito and Iavicoli, Viviana
California Western International Law Journal, 2019, Vol. 49: No. 2 , Article 4.  

Protecting the lost city hydrothermal vent system: All is not lost, or is it?
David Edward Johnson
Marine Policy, September 2019, Vol. 107, Elsevier Ltd.

Building a Platform for the Future: the Relationship of the Expected New Agreement for Marine Biodiversity in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
Kristina M. Gjerde, Nichola A. Clark and Harriet R. Harden-Davies
Ocean Yearbook Online, May 2019, Vol. 33: 3-44

Building Scientific and Technological Capacity: a Role for Benefit-sharing in the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction
Harriet R. Harden-Davies and Kristina M. Gjerde
Ocean Yearbook Online, May 2019, Vol 33: 377-400

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Envisioning its Application to Marine Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ)
Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative. Policy Brief September 2018

Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: Options for Underpinning a Strong Global BBNJ Agreement through Regional and Sectoral Governance
Gjerde, K., Boteler, B., Durussel, C., Rochette, J., Unger, S., Wright‚ G.
STRONG High Seas Project (2018)

The Long and Winding road: negotiating a high seas treaty
Wright G., Rochette J., Gjerde K., Seeger I. (2018). IDDRI Study No.8/2018

The Contributions of Marine and Coastal Area-Based Management Approaches to SDGs and Targets
Fletcher, Ruth; Scrimgeour, Rachael; Friedrich, Laura; Fletcher, Steve and Griffin, Holly
UNEP-WCMC (2018). UN Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 205. 101 pp.

A review of area based planning tools: What is the potential for cross-sectoral planning in areas beyond national jurisdiction?
Scrimgeour, Rachael; Fletcher, Ruth; Martin, Juliette; and Fletcher, Steve
UNEP-WCMC (2018). 71 pp.

Marine Connectivity Across Jurisdictional Boundaries: An Introduction
Danks, Fiona; Fletcher, Ruth; McOwen, Chris; Scrimgeour, Rachael; Martin, Juliette; Thornton, Hazel; Tittensor, Derek; and Dunn, Daniel
UNEP-WCMC (2018). Cambridge (UK). 32 pp.

Implementation challenges of area-based management tools (ABMTs) for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ)
Elizabeth M. De Santo (2018)
Marine Policy Vol. 97, pp. 34-43

Mare Geneticum: Balancing Governance of Marine Genetic Resources in International Waters
The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law Vol. 33 No. 1/2018

Report of the workshop on Marine Protected Areas in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
16-17 May 2018. Gland, Switzerland. IUCN

Laying the Foundations for Management of a Seamount Beyond National Jurisdiction: A case study of the Walters Shoal in the South West Indian Ocean
Guduff S., Rochette J., Simard F. et al. (2018)

Empowering high seas governance with satellite vessel tracking data
Dunn D., Jablonicky C., Ortuno C. et al. (2018)
Fish and Fisheries 04/2018

The relationship between the continental shelf regime and a new international instrument for protecting marine biodiversityin areas beyond national jurisdiction
Joanna Mossop
ICES Journal of Marine Science (2017)

High seas fisheries: what role for a new international instrument?
Wright G., Rochette J., Blom L. et al. (2016)
IDDRI Study No. 3/2016

Developing area-based management tools in areas beyond national jurisdiction: possible scenarios for the Western Indian Ocean
Rochette J., Wright G. (2015)

Advancing marine biodiversity protection through regional fisheries management: a review of bottom fisheries closures in areas beyond national jurisdiction
Wright G., Ardron J., Gjerde K. et al. (2015)
Marine Policy Vol. 61, pp.134-148

The Legal Aspects of Connectivity Conservation. A Concept Paper
Lausche, Barbara, David Farrier, Jonathan Verschuuren, Antonio G. M. La Viña, Arie Trouwborst, Charles-Hubert Born, Lawrence Aug (2013)

Designing criteria suites to identify discrete and networked sites of high value across manifestations of biodiversity
Biodiversity and Conservation (2011) 20: 3363

Policy Briefs

Paper I:       Introduction on Scope Parameters and Feasibility

Paper II:      Enhancing Cooperation and Coordination

Paper III:     Options and approaches for access and benefit- sharing

Paper IV:     Governance principles

Paper V:      Understanding ABMT and MPA

Paper VI:     Options and approaches for establishing and managing Marine  Protected Areas

Paper VII:    Relation between EIA SEA and marine spatial planning

Paper VIII:   Options for environmental impact assessment elements

Paper IX:     Technology transfer and capacity building

Paper X:      Existing regulatory institutional and governance gaps

Paper XI:     Basic ideas for a possible institutional structure

Paper XII:    International procedures to ensure science-based decision-making

Paper XIII:   Compliance and verification mechanisms

Other Resources

Information Papers on Marine Genetic Resources

Marine Series No. 2
Marine Series No. 3

Previous work

IUCN Comments on BBNJ Draft Text - August 2019

Derivations on a deep-blue theme: disentangling definitions & concepts for MGR

Developing Mare Geneticum -- Rewarding and Sustaining?

Incorporating Scientific Practices into the BBNJ ILBI

Marine Genetic Resources and Benefit sharing

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