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

Promoting sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation in the common oceans

The oceans are essential to 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 60 percent of the ocean’s surface lies beyond territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Although far away, these so-called areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) are no free-for-all. They are covered by the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that establishes the rules governing all uses of the oceans and the protection of the marine environment.

Since 2014, a global alliance of stakeholders and partners – including regional fisheries management organizations, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and the private sector – has come together in the Common Oceans Program to bolster the sustainable use of marine resources and biodiversity conservation in the ABNJ.

The Program aims to improve tuna and deep-sea fisheries management by strengthening regulatory frameworks and reducing their environmental impact. It will form a collaborative stewardship to demonstrate how cooperation and partnership can play a leading role in sustaining and restoring the productivity and health of the in on the Sargasso Sea’s ecosystem. Another important aspect is capacity building. Key officials from regional and national organizations will participate in training programs that will allow them to exchange experiences and strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration on issues such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, seabed disturbance, marine and land-based pollution and climate change.

A new treaty on conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), known as the ‘BBNJ Agreement’, is underway. The Common Oceans Program has a key role in preparing the ground for this agreement that could be a game changer for its work towards invigorated cooperation in the management of shared marine waters.