Deputy Secretary-General Says High Seas Beyond National Jurisdiction Badly in Need of Protection, Urges Working Group to Find Ecosystem Based Approach to Governance

1 February 2010

Deputy Secretary-General Says High Seas Beyond National Jurisdiction Badly in Need of Protection, Urges Working Group to Find Ecosystem Based Approach to Governance

1 February 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General Says High Seas Beyond National Jurisdiction Badly in Need


of Protection, Urges Working Group to Find Ecosystem Based Approach to Governance


Following is Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s statement to the 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 in New York, 1 February:

I congratulate Ambassador Kohona of Sri Lanka and Ms. Lijnzaad of the Netherlands on their appointment to co-chair this Working Group.

As you know, this year is not only the International Year of Biodiversity -- it is the deadline by which the world had pledged to substantially reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

And as we also know, that target, which was integrated into the Millennium Development Goals, will not be met.

The failure to protect biodiversity should be a wake-up call.  We need a new vision for biodiversity on land and sea.

Marine biodiversity provides a wide range of goods and services essential for human well-being and sustainable development.  It is crucial for oxygen generation, carbon storage and climate regulation.  It provides food and natural substances for use in biotechnology.

This wealth of goods and services is increasingly jeopardized by human activities.

Life in our seas and oceans is being affected by invasive species and pollution.  Marine litter kills up to a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles each year. 

Climate change and acidification are destroying coral reefs, critical to marine productivity.  Nearly three quarters of world fish stocks are overexploited, condemning millions of the world’s poorest people to unemployment and malnutrition. 

Deep-sea ecosystems face increasing exploitation as new technologies provide access to largely unexplored and previously untouched living and non-living marine resources.

New uses of the oceans, including carbon sequestration and ocean fertilization for climate change mitigation, threaten to add further pressure on the marine environment.

Business as usual is not an option.  We need national, regional and international action. 

Mechanisms already exist, including the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization action plans for fisheries. 

However, these and other instruments, binding or non-binding, are not sufficiently implemented or enforced.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Governments committed to create a representative network of marine protected areas by 2012.  Less than one-half a per cent of marine habitats are protected -- compared with 11.5 per cent of global land area -- and the vast majority of these are in coastal areas.

High seas beyond national jurisdiction represent 59 per cent of the area of the global oceans.  They are badly in need of improved governance and protection. 

I sincerely hope this informal working group will focus on solutions that address this “tragedy of the commons”.  “Out of sight” should not mean “out of mind”.

Specifically, I urge you to find comprehensive ecosystem-based approaches to the management and governance of deep-sea ecosystems in high seas and remote marine areas.

While there are large gaps in our knowledge of these systems, it is essential to act on information that is already available.

The United Nations system is already working on environmental governance issues -- including equity, access and benefit sharing of high seas resources; conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystem services; and monitoring and environmental impact assessment of the high seas.

United Nations actors are also developing advice for countries and regional organizations on site-selection and management frameworks for deep-sea ecosystems, and tools for monitoring remote marine areas.

I encourage this meeting to draw lessons from these efforts, as well as the efforts of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, including the establishment of marine protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  An interesting example of this is the identification of potential Specially Protected Areas for Mediterranean Importance.  

I would also like to remind the group of forthcoming science-policy events on marine management and conservation -- including at the forthcoming session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention of Biological Diversity in Nairobi in May, and the session of the CBD Conference of the Parties in Nagoya in October.

This working group is in a unique position to assess what further actions are required to achieve internationally-agreed goals on marine biodiversity, including what is realistic in the short-term and what long-term strategy is needed.

International cooperation is essential.  The Secretary-General and I wish you every success in this important work.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.