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Marine Policy
Vol. 71, 2016, Pages: 210–216

Shaping an international agreement on marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction: Lessons from high seas fisheries

Robert Blasiak, Nobuyuki Yagi

Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan.


A decade of international discussion on marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) culminated in 2015 with a United Nations General Assembly Resolution to establish an international legally-binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ. Proponents of the new instrument therefore consider it as an opportunity to eliminate gaps in the current legal regime and promote better coordination. As the next step in the negotiations begins, substantial lessons can be drawn from the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA), which has faced many of the same challenges related to gaps in scientific knowledge, uneven governance and regulatory capacities, and inherent unpredictability, both ecologically and in terms of anthropogenic drivers of change. For BBNJ, however, such challenges are far more complex due to the diversity of stakeholder communities and the diversity of resources involved, including fish and mineral resources with tangible economic values, marine genetic resources of unknown value, and the culturally-specific values attached to charismatic species and conservation in general. Drawing on lessons from UNFSA, it is argued that the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) under the BBNJ instrument would be particularly well served by a similar regional approach aligned with existing international agreements. In this regard, it is recommended that the capacity building under the new international instrument on BBNJ should focus inter alia on the secretariats of the regional fishery management organizations in order to enhance intra-regional and inter-regional cooperation and sharing of best practices.

Keywords: BBNJ; Information asymmetries; Marine protected areas; Marine genetic resources; Multi-stakeholder engagement; UN Fish Stocks Agreement.

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