Common Oceans - A partnership for sustainability in the ABNJ

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations boosting engagement in development of new ‘High-Seas Treaty’

Common Oceans ABNJ Program organizes side event to showcase how lessons learned can help shape future actions

11 October 2019

The process of developing a new international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) continued with a third session of the Intergovernmental Conference – referred to as BBNJ IGC 3 – from 19 to 30 of August 2019.

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As with previous BBNJ sessions, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Common Oceans ABNJ Program organized a side event to highlight key knowledge and experience in support of the BBNJ process. The event - RFMOs: Continuing Progress in the 21st Century - was organized in collaboration with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NAFO) and the North Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), and provided a forum to discuss the role of the 13 tuna and deep-sea Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) around the world, and how lessons learned can help shape their future actions.

Tuna and deep-sea RFMOs not only focus their activities on the sustainable use of marine resources, but also on the challenging task of combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and mitigating the negative impacts of fishing activities on the environment. In recent years, RFMO performance was strengthened by implementing the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, as well as renewed efforts to ensure compliance of RFMO member States. The side event highlighted how enhancing such capacity can contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the ABNJ.

"The RFMOs continue to grow in their coverage and membership, while addressing emerging challenges related to sustainable fisheries practices and conservation of ABNJ species and resources. This reflects an ongoing evolution towards better management and offers us a rich opportunity to learn from their experiences as multi-national joint management organizations in the ABNJ", said Alejandro Anganuzzi, the Global Coordinator of the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project, in the introduction of the side event. 

Attended by IGC-3 delegates, including representatives from government, Vera Agostini, Deputy-Director of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, welcomed participants by underlining the importance of exchanging lessons learned and perspectives among all key stakeholders. Experiences from the RFMO were presented by Fred Kingston, Executive Secretary of NAFO, Darius Campbell, Secretary of NEAFC, and Camille Jean-Pierre Manel, Executive Secretary of ICCAT.

A second side event, Science to Policy in Practice: multi-institutional collaboration in the ABNJ was organized by FAO and the EAF-Nansen Programme, in collaboration with the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the National Marine Information Research Centre in Namibia, Fisheries and Oceans Department in Canada and the SponGES project.

There will be four sessions of the BBNJ IGC with the final meeting taking place in March-April 2020. Here is a summary of how FAO and the Common Oceans ABNJ Program has engaged in the BBNJ process so far:

BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference (session 1-3, 2018-2019)

Organizational Meeting of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference (April 2018)

BBNJ Preparatory Committee (four sessions, 2016-2017)

  • Capacity Development in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: Experiences, Lessons and Possible Ways Forward, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Capacity Project (during fourth session in July 2017)
  • Exploring a new instrument through the lens of Regional Fisheries Management Bodies (including Regional Fisheries Management Organizations), side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project (during fourth session in July 2017)
  • Existing International Legal and Policy Instruments related to Deep-Sea Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation in the ABNJ, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Deep Sea Project in collaboration with FAOs Deep Sea Programme and the EAF Nansen Programme (during third session in March 2017)
  • Ocean Scale Science for Effective Marine Governance, side event co-organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Capacity Project and the ATLAS project on the High Seas (during third session in March 2017)
  • Fisheries and Biodiversity and Existing Instruments and Management Tools with RFMOs (GFCM, NEAFC), CBD and ICFA, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Deep Sea Project in collaboration with FAOs Deep Sea Programme and the EAF Nansen Programme (during second session in August 2016)
  • Capacity Development for Area-Based Management in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: Needs, Experiences, Options and Opportunities, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Capacity Project (during second session in August 2016)
  • Deep-sea Resources and VMEs in the Southeast Atlantic – a Research Experience from a Collaborative Survey with the R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Deep Sea Project in collaboration with FAOs Deep Sea Programme and the EAF Nansen Programme (during first session in March 2016)
  • Regional and National Perspectives on Area-Based Management and Capacity Development Needs in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ): Examples from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Capacity Project (during first session in March 2016)

Informal Working Group on BBNJ (2015)

  • Capacity Development and ABNJ: Regional and National Perspectives – Examples from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific Islands, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Capacity Project (during 9th Meeting of the UN Ad-Hoc working group in January 2015)
  • Working Group on the VME Database, side event organized by the Common Oceans ABNJ Deep Sea Project in collaboration with FAOs Deep Sea Programme and the EAF Nansen Programme (during 9th Meeting of the UN Ad-Hoc working group in January 2015)

The Common Oceans ABNJ Program is funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by FAO, in partnership with a large number of regional organizations, civil society, academia and private sector. Learn more about the four Projects that make up the Program and the broad-scale, innovative efforts made to achieve efficient and sustainable management of fisheries resources and biodiversity conservation in the ABNJ here.

For more information, please contact:
Global Environment Facility (GEF)