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Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction

13-17 February 2006
| UN Headquarters, New York

Highlights from Monday, 13 February 2006
The Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group of the General Assembly to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (the Working Group) opened on Monday 13 February, at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York. In the morning, the Working Group addressed organizational matters and exchanged general views on marine biodiversity.

Vladimir Golitsyn, Director, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, recalled that UN General Assembly Resolution 59/24 established the Working Group to examine scientific, technologic, legal, economic, environmental and social issues relating to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. He highlighted capacity building as a key issue, especially for developing countries.

Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo, Working Group Co-Chair, Mexico, encouraged participants to be: visionary in addressing the full range of issues related to marine biodiversity in an integrated and multidisciplinary fashion; aware of anthropogenic activities on marine biodiversity, including vulnerable marine ecosystems; and guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Noting the challenges of jurisdiction, complexity and different interests at stake related to marine biodiversity, Philip Burgess, Working Group Co-Chair, Australia, highlighted the opportunity of addressing all relevant issues in the same forum, and looked forward to a frank and engaged debate.


Donna Petrachenko, Australia, said the Working Group should consider whether better implementation of existing agreements will suffice, or whether new instruments or coordination mechanisms are needed, and urged consideration of methods for developing, establishing and monitoring effectively MPAs beyond national jurisdiction.

Sabelo Sivuyile Maqungo, South Africa, for the G-77/China, highlighted the common heritage of mankind, benefit-sharing and precautionary approach in relation to deep seabed genetic resources. Emphasizing the role of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the integrity of UNCLOS, he urged consideration of new or improved implementation mechanisms and options for institutional arrangements, including ISA's existing capacity.

Highlighting the importance of integrated oceans management, Richard Ballhorn, Canada, encouraged: using more efficiently existing regimes and mandates as a pragmatic short-term approach; and addressing deep seabed genetic resources focusing on the environment and seeking a balance between conservation, science and commercial use.


Margaret Hayes, US, highlighted threats to marine biodiversity such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and climate change, and opposed the development of a regulatory regime on marine scientific research (MSR) favoring the consideration of guidelines on the conduct of MSR.

Gerhard Hafner, Austria, on behalf of the EU, called for an integrated approach to ocean governance and the negotiation of an implementation agreement to UNCLOS for the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs). He encouraged the Working Group to recommend concrete steps for the General Assembly to set up such a negotiating process.

Mexico welcomed an integrated approach to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, and highlighted the need for an internationally agreed definition of bioprospecting and the establishment of new regimes regulating the protection of marine biodiversity in the high seas.


Alfred Capelle, Marshall Islands, expressed concern about the prevalence of IUU fishing in areas with vulnerable ecosystems and supported the establishment of new governance arrangements in areas beyond national jurisdiction.


Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Bangladesh, called for an ecosystem-based approach to the exploration and exploitation of marine genetic resources, for the benefit of mankind, and for exploring possible mandatory regulations on MSR and bioprospecting.

Norway stated that the greatest challenges remain in national zones, identified the need for further research involving developing country scientists, and argued that the existing legal framework is sufficient, if fully implemented.

Carlos Duarte, Brazil, suggested that biological resources in the Area be used for the benefit of present generations and preserved for future generations, and that MSR in the Area bring benefits to mankind.


IUCN underlined the need to adopt interim measures to conserve vulnerable areas, and encouraged States to reconfirm principles under existing regimes that apply to activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction, which could provide the basis for voluntary codes and guidelines on deep seabed genetic resources.

Tomas Heidar, Iceland, called for further scientific research, and questioned the need for a new global agreement on areas beyond national jurisdiction

Sylvia Earle, Conservation International, called for an interim prohibition of all high seas bottom trawling.


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