On 6-7 October, more than 500 delegates convened for The High Seas Treaty Symposium, a two-day discussion of implementation opportunities for a groundbreaking treaty to protect marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) which was adopted by the United Nations earlier this year.
The two-day symposium, convened at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, took place as nations prepare to sign, ratify and apply the new legal framework set out by the BBNJ Agreement – the culmination of decades of work to pull together the fragmented regime to manage how humanity uses two-thirds of the world’s ocean. Supported by iAtlantic and a range of other sponsors, the symposium brought together more than 100 organisations from 50+ nations, both in person and online, to discuss the opportunities and challenges in transitioning this historic agreement from negotiation to implementation.
“If we are to protect the health of our oceans and achieve political goals such as protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030, the global community needs to be ambitious in its implementation of the historic BBNJ Agreement,” said Symposium Chair Murray Roberts (University of Edinburgh/iAtlantic project), pictured right. “This symposium provided a critically important opportunity for us to take stock and evaluate the potential challenges and opportunities as nations move to ratify and eventually implement this historic agreement.”
The symposium comprised 10 expert panels covering key aspects of the BBNJ Agreement, focusing on the four pillars of the treaty:
- Marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits;
- Measures such as area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs);
- Environmental impact assessments (EIAs);
- Capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.
“It was thrilling to participate in this symposium – a historic meeting of minds who are dedicated to ensuring we don’t squander this rare, vital opportunity to conserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction”, said Daniela Diz (Heriot-Watt University; pictured left), who chaired the session on Environmental Impact Assessments. “My hope is that delegates and participants left the symposium feeling motivated and confident in our global capacity to successfully and rapidly bring this treaty into force and effectively implement this Agreement, and make good on the commitments we’ve made to each other and to the precious, little-known biodiversity beneath our ocean”.
The Symposium preceded the iAtlantic project’s Final Meeting, also convened in Edinburgh as an open meeting and making a week-long jamboree of deep-sea discussions. Many delegates from the High Seas Treaty Symposium took advantage of the back-to-back scheduling and attended both events, bringing important stakeholder views to the iAtlantic meeting.
The Symposium produced a Statement on the importance of rapid ratification and implementation of this new treaty, which is available for all to sign. Recordings of the discussion will be available shortly on the Symposium website and the Organising Committee are now working to plan academic outputs from the discussion. Among the ideas emerging from the discussions in Edinburgh was a second Symposium. The Organising Team are taking that discussion forward and welcome discussion on venue and timing for a Second High Seas Treaty Symposium.
Full details of the Symposium, including photo and (in due course) video highlights, are available on the Symposium website.