Common Oceans - A partnership for sustainability and biodiversity in the ABNJ

Ambitious, new phase of Common Oceans Program to keep the ocean healthy

GEF-funded partnership continues work on improved cooperation in the management of shared marine waters

6 July 2022

Rome – A new phase in the life of the Common Oceans Program is going to bolster international efforts in support of sustainable management of marine resources and biodiversity conservation in the ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction (ANBJ).

"The message from the recent UN Ocean Conference was clear: greater ambition is needed to address the challenges of ocean sustainability," said Manuel Barange, Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, at a meeting in Rome marking the start of the Common Ocean Program’s second phase. “It makes the Common Oceans Program all the more urgent. This unique partnership has the potential to act on improving the health, productivity, sustainable use and resilience of ocean ecosystems and of those depending on their resources,” he added.

The Program will focus on sustainable tuna and deep-sea fishing, the protection of biodiversity in the Sargasso Sea and improved cross-sectoral cooperation on key ocean issues such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, seabed disturbance, pollution, and climate change.

Isabelle Vanderbeck, UN Environment Task Manager for GEF International Waters said: “This new phase is strategically important because the BBNJ agreement - a new international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction - is expected in August.”

She explained that key officials from regional and national organizations in the Southeast Pacific and the Pacific Islands Region will be trained on sectoral and cross-sectoral cooperation in ABNJ governance. One key objective is to increase their understanding of existing and new international agreements, such as the ‘BBNJ Agreement’.

“The Program will prepare those officials and organisations to implement this agreement,” Isabelle Vanderbeck added.

The Common Oceans Programs ambitious goals include the objective to ensure that by 2027 all major tuna stocks are fished at sustainable levels, as well as nearly 75 per cent of deep-sea stocks by making sure that an additional 25 per cent – around 56 000 tonnes -  of deep-sea catch comes from sustainably managed stocks.

Reducing environmental impact and decreasing bycatch are equally important goals, which the Program aims to pursue by promoting good practices in bycatch mitigation and the use of alternative gear, by improving the monitoring of catches, and by encouraging compliance with international fisheries obligations and conservation measures.

In the Sargasso Sea, the Program will work to establish a collaborative stewardship to demonstrate how cooperation and partnership can play a leading role in sustaining and restoring the productivity and health of the Sargasso Sea’s unique and highly biodiverse high seas ecosystem.

"This is the first ever ecosystem diagnostic analysis of a high seas ecosystem,” Andrew Hudson, Head, Water & Ocean Governance Programme at UNDP said. "It could act as a blueprint for high seas conservation around the world,” he added.


Oceans are essential for life on earth. They help regulate our climate and produce oxygen for us to breathe. They provide food, jobs, energy and transport for millions of people around the world. To keep the oceans healthy, we need to manage the marine environment responsibly, as overfishing, pollution and climate change are putting pressure on biodiversity and ecosystems.

Over the past five years, the Common Oceans Program with a USD 50 million grant by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has galvanised international action in support of protection and sustainable management of the ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) – which cover over 60 percent of the world’s ocean surface. In 2020, the GEF allocated an additional USD 27 million for the Program to ramp up its efforts, the new phase that has started today.

About the Program

The Common Oceans Program is a global partnership funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), promoting sustainable fisheries and conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). Led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Program brings together the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), regional fisheries management organizations, national governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia.