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New Law of the Sea Agreement on High Seas Biodiversity

World governments agreed in 2015 that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should be expanded to include a new legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

During 2016 and 2017, four preparatory committee meetings were held at the UN Headquarters in New York to develop the draft text of the new ocean regulations, addressing:

• Area-based management tools, such as marine planning and marine protected areas
• Environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements
• The transfer of marine technology
• The regime for managing marine genetic resources, including benefit-sharing

The formal development of this new legally binding ocean regulation will now begin. How will these new ocean laws affect companies currently or potentially operating in the high seas and deep seabed – shipping, oil and gas, cruise tourism, fishing, seabed mining, biotechnology, submarine cable, and others – as well those from associated support sectors, such as maritime legal, finance, and insurance companies?

There is still time for ocean industries to engage in this critical ocean governance process that will affect business access and operations. Industry involvement is critical and can help ensure that policies and regulations are developed with full and balanced information, are based on good science and risk assessment, are practical and implementable and engender the involvement and support of the ocean business community.

As the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, Peter Hinchliffe, noted, “It is important that ocean industries are informed and constructively engaged in ocean governance developments. The WOC is providing this by monitoring, analyzing and reporting on the ocean policy and planning on behalf of the ocean business community. The WOC merits the support and involvement of companies concerned about the future of their ocean operations.”

The SOS 2017 session on “The Law of the Sea New Legally Binding Instrument on Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ): What Will It Mean for Ocean Industries ?” will provide updated information and expert analysis for the ocean business community.

The session will address:

• What is the final version of the legally binding BBNJ agreement that was developed in 2016-17?
• What is the process for formal consideration and adoption of the BBNJ agreement by the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA)?
• How can and should ocean industries engage with other ocean stakeholders, including governments, as the BBNJ agreement moves to and through the UNGA?

Source: World Ocean Council

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