Nereus research fellows Harriet Harden-Davies (University of Wollongong/ANCORS) and Guillermo Ortuño Crespo (Duke University) with Principal Investigator Daniel Dunn (Duke University) recently published a policy brief for the independent policy research institute IDDRI and Sciences Po. They discuss the current global high seas governance framework and propose ten ambitious measures for a treaty that would build upon the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and help close current governance gaps.

Some of the authors’ key messages in the brief include:

  • States at the United Nations are currently in negotiations on a treaty that focuses on marine conservation and sustainability in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ);
  • States and stakeholders should collaborate to create an “effective and equitable treaty with strong global oversight”;
  • current negotiations are based on a “package deal” that covers marine genetic resources (MGRs), marine protected areas (MPAs), area-based management tools (ABMT), environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and capacity building and technology sharing;
  • Calling for a new treaty that builds upon UNCLOS and would strengthen the existing high seas governance framework to protect marine biodiversity by placing cooperation and science at the heart of the global commons regime.

Recognizing the ever-growing human demand for natural resources and their exploitation, the authors’ proposal measures are aimed at creating a treaty framework that goes “beyond the package deal elements” to include the following:

  1. Advance the vision of UNCLOS
  2. Global oversight
  3. Strengthen sectoral and regional governance
  4. Address climate change
  5. Build a fair and equitable treaty
  6. Protect marine ecosystems
  7. Support effective management of high seas fisheries
  8. Reinforce capacity and share marine technology
  9. Put science and collaboration at the heart of conservation and management
  10. Keep an eye on the high seas

The authors write that with global fishing and shipping expanding, technologies such a deep seabed mining and marine genetic resource prospecting in development, and climate change and ocean acidification exacerbating everything, these ambitious measures will provide “potential avenues for strengthening the overall framework beyond the package deal elements” to help protect biodiversity and marine ecosystems in ABNJ.


Wright, G., Cremers, K., Rochette, J., Clark, N., Dunn, D., Gjerde, K.M., Harden-Davies, H., Mohammed, E., Ortuño Crespo, G. (2019). High  Hopes for the High Seas: beyond the package deal towards an ambitious treaty IDDRI, Issue Brief, N°01/19. Link

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