The draft agreement on Biodiversity in areas beyond the National Jurisdiction of the Oceans (BBNJ) establishes key tools for the protection and sustainable use of the high seas.
The area-based management tool (ABMT) is defined as a “tool, including marine protected areas, for a geographically defined area through which one or more sectors or activities are managed with the objective of achieving particular conservation objectives”. conservation and sustainable use of the high seas” (BBNJ, 2023)
Subsequently, and included within the ABMT, we have the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) defined as “a geographically defined marine area that is designated and managed to achieve specific objectives of conservation of biological diversity in the long term and that allows, where appropriate, use sustainable as long as it is consistent with conservation objectives” (BBNJ, 2023)
The new BBNJ Agreement establishes five key areas of progress regarding Marine Protected Areas that combat biodiversity loss and maintain healthy and functional ocean ecosystems (High Seas Alliance, 2023).
Objectives of the ABMT and MPAs (Harvard, 2023)
- Conserve and sustainably use areas that require protection, including through the establishment of a comprehensive ABMT system, with ecologically representative and well-connected MPA networks.
- Strengthen cooperation and coordination in the use of ABMT, including MPAs among states, relevant instruments and frameworks, and relevant global, regional, subregional, and sectoral bodies
- Preserve, protect, restore and maintain biological diversity and ecosystems, including with a view to improving their productivity and health, strengthening their resilience to stress factors (climate change, ocean acidification and marine pollution)
- Support food security and other socioeconomic objectives, including the protection of cultural values
- Support developing States Parties, in particular least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, geographically disadvantaged States, small island developing States, African coastal States, archipelagic States and developing countries of medium income, taking into account the special circumstances of small island developing States, through capacity building and the development and transfer of marine technology in the development, implementation, monitoring, management and enforcement of ABMT, including MPAs.
However, the BBNJ agreement creates a new body empowered to establish MPAs on the high seas considering a management plan and associated measures that support the effectiveness of MPAs in the effort to also create a connected network of MPAs on the High Seas.
It provides a pathway to achieving the goal of protecting 30% of the high seas by allowing the global community to establish MPAs on the High Seas, by allowing them to be adopted by vote when consensus cannot be reached. Prevent a single nation from having a veto over the establishment of MPAs in the High Seas.
The definition of an MPA clarifies that it should have a conservation objective that further confirms that any sustainable use activity that takes place in MPAs on the High Seas is only carried out as appropriate and as long as it remains consistent with the conservation objectives. conservation of MPAs in the High Seas.
The BBNJ Agreement should support developing countries through capacity building and technology transfer so that they are better empowered to manage, develop, implement, and monitor future MPAs in the High Seas.
Finally, it empowers the new body to act in emergency situations, thus facilitating the response to natural and man-made disasters.
Source: High Seas Alliance, Harvard