Tuesday, 21 October 2008

High seas principles launched

During the IUCN World Conservation Congress, IUCN’s President, Valli Moosa, launched 10 Principles for modern high seas governance and challenged international experts to find new ways to implement them. The 10 Principles reflect fundamental principles that nations have agreed to in various treaties and declarations but have largely failed to implement on the nearly 50% of the planet that lies beyond individual nation’s jurisdiction.

For centuries we have treated the high seas as open and free to all nations, but the responsibility of none. As a result, high seas fish stocks are plummeting, biodiversity losses are mounting, and now climate change brings new threats that can tip the balance away from ocean health and resilience. Discussions to improve the governance of the high seas have gained momentum in recent years, and have reached the highest levels at the United Nations. However, progress is painfully slow. Too often, the debate focuses on issues where nations differ rather than on actions that all nations can agree to. These principles are designed to stimulate progress by identifying common guidelines for action. They reflect the results of an electronic consultation conducted by IUCN's Global Marine Programme.

The 10 Principles for High Seas Governance call for: 1) reaffirming and enforceing international law, in particular, the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), to condition the enjoyment of high seas freedoms with the implemention of the Convention’s duties; 2) reaffirming the fundamental duty in UNCLOS to protect and preserve the marine environment; and 3) increasing international cooperation to reform management institutions and to fill remaining institutional gaps. Other principles reaffirm and elaborate previous commitments to: 4) science-based management; 5) the precautionary approach; 6) ecosystem-based management; 7) sustainable and equitable use; 8) public availability of information; 9) transparent and open decision-making processes; and 10) State responsibility for the actions of their citizens, companies and vessels and State liability for harm to the global marine environment.