ABNJ Deep Seas Project

Applying an ecosystem approach to improve biodiversity conservation in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Find out more about the ABNJ Deep Seas Project


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The Challenge

The ocean is the life support system of our planet. Covering 71% of the world’s surface, it is a vast and dynamic system, providing essential services that support the livelihoods of millions of people. It provides us with basics such as food, materials, energy and transportation, as well as regulating our climate by acting as a carbon sink and producing around half of the world’s oxygen.

Human activity and technological advances, however, including offshore oil and gas mining and fishing, are increasingly affecting the ocean. 43% of the planet’s surface is ocean not under any one nation’s jurisdiction, making it difficult to ensure that resources are being sustainably managed.

Recognition of these increasing pressures has already triggered global efforts to conserve and protect marine resources. In 2017, following a preparatory phase of more than ten years, the UN General Assembly decided to launch formal negotiations to create a new international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to conserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This process is ongoing and is currently being negotiated through a series of conferences in New York, planned to be completed by 2020.

Area-based management tools are one of the mechanisms suggested to support the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. The last few years has seen significant attention given to planning across multiple sectors that can unite a wide range of ocean uses and stakeholder needs. As more interests are considered, ecosystem-based management inevitably becomes more complicated and there has been significant demand for tools and methods that support improved decision making within this planning processes.

Our solution & impact

We aim to improve biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of deep-sea living resources by collaborating with partners to apply an ecosystem-based approach in ABNJ.
This has four components:

  1. Improving the use of relevant policy and legal frameworks for fisheries and biodiversity conservation
  2. Reducing adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, and ecologically or biologically significant marine areas.
  3. Improving planning and adaptive management for deep sea fisheries
  4. Developing and testing a methodology for area-based planning

Through such collaborations, and by growing the ability of different sectors and state to create their own area-based planning in the pilot regions, the project aims to ultimately help reduce cumulative impacts on deep-sea ecosystems.



Expertise & Team

The UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has been confronting the challenges faced by biodiversity for 40 years. We connect science, policy and society for the benefit of people and nature.

We have expertise in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including through supporting the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Preparatory Committee discussions, and through our extensive work on Marine Spatial Planning, in collaboration with other parts of UN Environment.  In particular, we’ve recently analysed how area-based approaches can support the delivery of Sustainable Development Goals, and delivered various technical project outputs.  

Partners & Donors