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In Focus

Preserving the global marine commons

Innovative partnership to promote sustainable fisheries management in the high seas

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) last week approved a broad-scale, innovative approach to address the depletion of high-seas fish stocks and biodiversity conservation.

The new programme aims to promote efficient and sustainable management of fisheries resources and biodiversity conservation in marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), commonly called the high seas.   

ABNJ make up 40 percent of the earth’s surface, 64 percent of the surface of the ocean and 95 percent of its volume, and their marine resources are valued at well over US$10 billion annually. As no one nation has sole responsibility for their management, these areas are suffering from the tragedy of the commons, resulting in the near collapse of some species of tuna, loss of marine biodiversity, and threatening marine ecosystem health and services.  

The new initiative, which will be coordinated by FAO, comprises four projects bringing together governments, regional fisheries management bodies, the private sector and non-governmental organizations to work together towards the sustainable use and conservation of these complex ecosystems.

“High-seas fisheries offer food security and livelihoods to millions of people worldwide," said Árni Mathiesen, Assistant Director General of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of FAO. “This broad international partnership is the best way forward to reduce overfishing and illegal fishing of the world´s oceans. FAO is strongly committed to making the partnership a success.” 

Both the ecological and economic stakes are high – FAO estimates that tuna represents about 8 percent of the total value of world fisheries and the ABNJ area as a whole over 10 percent.

Projects cover:

  • Sustainable management of tuna fisheries
  • Sustainable use of deep-sea living resources
  • The Oceans Partnership Fund
  • Strengthening global capacity to effectively manage ABNJ.

FAO will lead the tuna and capacity development projects and work with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the deep-sea management component, while the World Bank will manage the Oceans Partnership Fund to promote public and private investment to enhance the economic and biological performance of these globally important seascapes.

The GEF is providing $50 million in grants, which is leveraging $270 million in co-financing from public and private partners, including FAO, the World Bank, UNEP, the Tuna and Deep Sea Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, the  South Indian Ocean Fisheries Association, Birdlife International, Conservation International, the  International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Global Oceans Forum.