By Fran Humphries
Law Futures Centre

More than 60% of the world’s ocean biodiversity is legally unprotected. These are the areas beyond national jurisdiction, which include life in the high seas (international waters) and in the ocean floor below the high seas water column.

In August 2019, the United Nations held its third negotiating session for a new ocean treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Griffith University (QLD), together with its partners the International Institute for Environment and Development (UK), ANCORS Nereus program at University of Wollongong (NSW) and the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (QLD), held a side event in New York during the negotiations to explore new ideas for addressing key elements of the draft treaty text.

Over forty delegates and academics joined the ‘One Ocean’ side event with presentations from experts involved in the negotiations on the following key topics (click on the topics in the left hand column of the table for pdfs of the presentations and click on the presentation title for the link to information papers):

Marine genetic resources A Tiered Approach to the Marine Genetic Resource Framework under the proposed UNCLOS Agreement for Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Fran Humphries (Griffith University, Australia)
Information components of marine genetic resources What happened to free information? Information as an ABS resource Charles Lawson (Griffith University, Australia)
Area based management tools Beyond static spatial management: scientific and legal considerations for dynamic spatial management in the High Seas Guillermo Ortuno Crespo, (Duke University, USA), Kristina Gjerde (IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme) & Joanna Mossop (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Technology transfer and capacity building Capacity building and technology transfer for improving governance of marine areas both beyond and within national jurisdiction Marjo Vierros (Coastal Policy and Humanities Research, Canada)
Institutional governance arrangements Beyond Global, Regional, and Hybrid: Institutional Arrangements for the new BBNJ Treaty Nichola Clark (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Questions of adjacency Clarifying Adjacency: What might it mean and how can it be reflected in the BBNJ treaty? Joanna Mossop (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Traditional knowledge Integrating the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities into a BBNJ instrument Clement Yow Mulalap (Legal Adviser at the Permanent Mission of the Federated States of Micronesia to the United Nations)
Data use for Conservation Planning Tools Data-driven approach for highlighting priority areas for protection in the high seas Morgan Visalli & Douglas McCauley (University of California) and Benjamin Best (EcoQuants), USA
Monitoring, control and surveillance Strengthening monitoring, control and surveillance on the high seas Klaudija Cremers (Institut du Developpement Durable et des Relations Internationales, France)
Coherence between cross cutting elements Ensuring Coherence between BBNJ Elements: Strengthening Interlinkages for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Carole Durussel (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. Germany)


The second half of the ‘One Ocean’ symposium was a ground-breaking exploration of how ‘Rights of Nature’ laws might apply to the context of ocean biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction and the key issues raised above. The Rights of Nature approach represents a paradigm shift, where nature is recognised as having its own legal right to exist, regenerate and evolve.

The pdfs of the guest speaker presentations on the Rights of Nature session are here:

  • the Rights of Nature movement (Michelle Maloney, Convenor of Australian Earth Laws Alliance);
  • the Pacific Ocean and Rights of Nature initiative (Victor David, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement);
  • the Rights of Nature Concept in the context of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (Harriet Harden-Davies, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security/Nereus program at University of Wollongong).

Countries aim to conclude the treaty negotiations in 2020 with the hope that the international community will be one step closer to a framework for conserving and sustainably using marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.