The Last Frontier of Ocean Governance



well ladies and gentlemen I'd like to take you on a journey to the high seas those vast and remote open ocean areas out of sight and out of mind for many of us they are host to a large proportion of the world's marine biodiversity the marine species habitats and ecosystems a veritable treasure trove of resources and biodiversity for which we are stewards for US and future generations and I'd like to talk this evening about why now more than ever we need a high seas conservation agreement to put in place some basic environmental safeguards around our use and access to those resources and biodiversity first let's look at a map to see where the high seas actually are they're all those dark blue areas in the map all those areas 200 nautical miles from the coastline of nation-states as Clive mentioned this is 50% of the planet 64% of the oceans area average depth of 4,000 meters now contrast those areas to those in light blue which are waters under national jurisdiction and control in those waters under national jurisdiction and control we have such things as environmental impact assessment we have such things as marine protected areas marine spatial planning and regulation around the way we exploit the resources of those areas when we get out beyond 200 nautical miles we have very few of those types of constraints on our resource and use of the oceans and we are rapidly moving further out into the oceans and engaging activities such as exploration for deep seabed minerals industrial scale fishing increase our transits of the ocean for the purpose of global trade and other things of that nature so we are increasingly using those areas of the high seas so we need to be more environmentally responsible about about the way we do that recently there was a series of articles in The New York Times which some of you may have seen called the outlaw ocean and in that series of articles it was pointed out the lack of ocean governance and the lack of law that is out there on the ocean allowing the oceans to be virtual vectors for criminal activities such as illegal smuggling piracy trafficking in persons and making seafarers stowaways and others very vulnerable in the process so why should we worry so much about these remote areas when we have immediate and pressing marine conservation issues closer to shore well quite simply they're our lifeline they provide us with 50% of our oxygen they regulate our weather water and climate they are a very important carbon sink for the planet at least is important if not more important than terrestrial forests they absorb a huge amount of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and they provide almost 20% of the world's food source through fish and and other seafood and people within our region in particular the Asia Pacific are tremendously dependent on that food source so it is extremely important for us to think about how we govern these areas now and into the future this slide I'm showing here is a miniature snapshot of the color life and fragility we find in the deep sea the high seas and the deep sea host millions of species estimated 10 million species is only 1.5 million of those species haven't yet been discovered by humans so it's important of us to think now and for future generations how we're going to conserve those species and to act with respect precaution and stewardship around those fragile species and enormous ly important species for the human race so here we see for instance two worms and bivalves at a hydrothermal vent on the deep sea floor these can have enormous lis important genetic properties and we can derive genetic and biochemical materials from them threats to the environmental integrity of high seas resources and biodiversity are mounting fisheries practices is one example technological advances have made it possible for deep distant water fishing fleets to access and harvest slow-growing species of fish such as orange roughy or Patagonian toothfish on an industrial scale they have equipment such as multi-beam sonar Global Positioning satellites stronger cables and winches now which enable them to locate the fish and so overfishing is one of the key threats to the high seas and its resources and biodiversity also things like synthetic lines and nets virtually indestructible material entrap bycatch things such as turtles cetaceans sharks non-target species so destructive fishing practices of that nature deepwater bottom trawling and drift net fishing have already caused substantial damage to our high seas resources and biodiversity aside from shipping we've also got global shipping and cargoes expected to triple by 2060 accidental and deliberate discharges of oil and hazardous substances ship strikes on marine life and noise they all represent risks to high seas resources and biodiversity apart from these visible threats Fisheries and navigation we also have emerging activities such as deep seabed mining and marine geoengineering and things such as ocean fertilization which all represent a risk to high seas resources and biodiversity they have the potential to harm those things in the future so it's not all doom and gloom however and I would like to say that I'm tremendously excited as an international lawyer to tell you that what some of us have been working for for over a decade has in fact been put in process there is a landmark decision this year in the United Nations on the 22nd of June which passed a resolution UN General Assembly resolution which decided to develop a international legally binding instrument under the 1982 UN law of the sea Convention to conserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction quite a mouthful but political momentum has now peaked to achieve that agreement and there will be a Preparatory Committee established in 2016 it will work through 2016 2017 to develop the elements of a new agreement to conserve and sustainably use high seas resources and biodiversity that is a tremendous achievement for those of us who has have been working towards that objective for many years if we look at the package deal which has emerged for that agreement it contains a number of elements the first element is area based management tools things such as marine protected areas the objective is to have a representative network of marine protected areas on the high seas designated through this agreement and also in the long term to have marine spatial planning to accommodate different uses on the high seas environmental impact assessment to subject all activities which might have the potential to have significant impacts on the high seas resources and biodiversity to an environmental impact assessment process something we take for granted in waters under national jurisdiction a new resource marine genetic resources the genetic material we can derive from marine organisms a system of governance for those equitable distribution of the benefits both monetary and non-monetary from those resources among nations of the world and finally underpinning all those elements of the package deal transfer of Technology provisions and capacity-building provisions so here we have what I would call a seismic convergence between the law of the sea and marine environmental law and I urge you all to find out more about this last great frontier of ocean governance and to lend your support to global and regional efforts to achieve it thank you

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