Marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction

Updated 09 September 2014

1.     The variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are part makes up biodiversity. Biodiversity includes the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (Convention on Biological Diversity, article 2). Marine biodiversity is vitally important for human well-being as it underpins a wide range of ecosystem services on which life depends.

2.     In recent years, the international community has become increasingly aware of the range of services provided by marine ecosystems and of the rich biodiversity of pelagic and benthic ecosystems beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, namely in the high seas and the Area. The high seas are all parts of the sea that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State, or in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic State, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea –“UNCLOS” (article 86). The Area is the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (UNCLOS, article 1).

3.     The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, as the secretariat of UNCLOS and the substantive entity servicing the General Assembly in its consideration of the law of the sea and ocean affairs, has a mandate to provide a range of legal and technical services, such as information, advice and assistance as well as conducting research and preparing studies with a view to promoting a better understanding of UNCLOS and the implementing Agreements, their wider acceptance, uniform and consistent application and effective implementation, including in relation to marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

4.     The present page provides information on the following:

· environmental, scientific and technological aspects

· economic and socio-economic aspects

· legal and policy framework, in particular the work of the General Assembly

· cooperation and coordination within the United Nations system.

· Links to other relevant information


Prepared by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations.

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