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

Spotlighting the impact of the Common Oceans Program in the context of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA)

Side event at 2023 UNFSA Review Conference promotes the value of multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable fisheries and biodiversity

24 May 2023

New York – The 2023 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) Review Conferencetaking place from May 22 to 26, brought together country representatives, experts, and stakeholders to address issues concerning sustainable fisheries management in the high seas. During the review conference, a side event showcased positive contributions of the Common Oceans Programtomore effective and sustainable fisheries management.

Under the theme "Common Oceans Program - A Global Partnership Supporting UNFSA," the event focused on illuminating the unique role of the Common Oceans Program in promoting sustainable fisheries management and marine biodiversity conservation in the marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

"Achieving sustainable management of fisheries resources and conserving biodiversity in ABNJ is extremely difficult given the complexity of the ecosystems as well as the many and diverse actors involved." Vera Agostini, Deputy Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) emphasized in her opening speech of the event, "often what is missing is a coordinated cohesive integrated intervention that ensures the implementation of legal frameworks for ocean management in ABNJ."

With a focus on creating valuable partnerships and enhancing global and regional coordination on ABNJ issues, the Common Oceans Program aims to promote efficient and sustainable management of fisheries resources and biodiversity conservation in the high seas to achieve internationally agreed global targets.

"The sustainable management of straddling and highly migratory species has been at the core of the Program," stressed Viktoria Varga Lencses, Coordinator of Common Oceans Program at FAO when presenting the Program at the event. The Common Oceans Tuna and Deep-sea fisheries projects have focused on supporting efforts to strengthen the sustainable management of fish stocks in the ABNJ “by facilitating cooperation among regional fisheries management organizations, implementing the precautionary and ecosystem approach to fisheries, and addressing data gaps and compliance challenges through innovative tools and approaches,” Viktoria VargaLencses, added. 

Furthermore, the Program promotes coherence in the governance of ABNJ through cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration. Viktoria Varga Lencses said that the "Common Oceans Program is built as a broad voluntary partnership with governments, intergovernmental, private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), and academic initiatives that collaborate, in different capacities, to achieve the common objective of sustainable use and biodiversity conservation."

The second phase of the Program commenced in 2022 and builds on the achievements of the first phase. The side event focused on these achievements and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. In the panel discussion, experts from regional fisheries management organizations, civil society, and industry partners shared their experiences and insights on sustainable fisheries management aligned with UNFSA recommendations.

"The 2023 UNFSA Review Conference is a significant opportunity to foster the ongoing efforts to address the challenges faced by the world's fisheries," stressed Vera Agostini.

Looking ahead, Vera Agostini expressed optimism about the future: "By harnessing the knowledge and expertise through acting in collaboration, we can drive a blue transformation and ensure the sustainable management of our marine resources for generations to come."  

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 the 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.