World’s countries reach agreement on conservation of marine biodiversity in the high seas

Following intense negotiations over several years, agreement was reached late on Saturday evening on an instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Norway is very pleased with the result. The agreement will provide an important framework for enhancing ocean management, and paves the way for closer cooperation across sectors to improve ocean health.

‘I am very pleased that we have succeeded in putting in place an agreement that further strengthens the law of the sea. The agreement will enhance international ocean management in line with Norway’s interests as a maritime nation. The agreement will be important as a framework for establishing marine protected areas and other area-based management tools in areas beyond national jurisdiction. It will help us to achieve the target to protect 30 % of the oceans by 2030, a political target that Norway has endorsed,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt.

In 2017, the UN General Assembly decided to convene an intergovernmental conference to develop a new agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Norway recognises the severe pressures on the oceans, and therefore played an active role in bringing the negotiations on the new agreement to a successful conclusion. One of Norway’s main priorities has been to secure a robust and forward-looking agreement, which will provide an important framework for establishing area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, and for carrying out environmental impact assessments.  

‘Oceans cover most of the world’s surface, and are home to much of our planet’s biodiversity. We have finally put in place a multilateral environmental agreement for the oceans. This is a major breakthrough for areas beyond national jurisdiction, which account for two-thirds of the world’s oceans and seas. After two decades of negotiations, I am very pleased that we have at last reached our goal. It is an important follow-up to the Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at COP 15. As at COP 15 in Montreal, Norway has played a key role as bridge-builder in the efforts to secure the agreement,’ said Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide.

Capacity building and transfer of technology to developing countries are vital measures to ensure that all countries are able to implement and participate in activities under the agreement, irrespective of their resources and circumstances. Norway has supported the inclusion of clear provisions on these matters in the agreement.

‘This agreement will facilitate better ocean management and better ocean health, and will be vitally important for developing countries as they seek to safeguard their marine resources in the best possible way. The agreement will also promote equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction,’ said Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim. 

‘This agreement will enhance ocean management and will be an important tool in the efforts to improve the productivity and health of the oceans. We can now strengthen the cooperation already established in the high seas areas closest to Norway, and continue efforts, which are already well under way, to assess how marine spatial management can be improved,’ said Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran.