Abstract:
At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June 2012, world
leaders committed to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological
diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the high seas). Our analysis of
gaps in high seas management indicates that a paradigm shift to a more system-
atic approach will be needed to safeguard high seas biodiversity from mounting
threats. Experience from terrestrial and coastal areas indicates that a system-
atic approach to conservation planning and management can help to maintain
ecosystem health and productivity while enabling sustainable use. Our anal-
ysis further demonstrates that the current legal regime on the high seas is
insufficient to realize these objectives: management institutions have neither
an adequate mandate for integrated planning nor the ability to effectively co-
ordinate across multiple management regimes. We identify key elements for
future high seas management and posit that a two-pronged approach is most
promising: the development of an improved global legal regime that incorpo-
rates systematic planning as well as the expansion of existing and new regional
agreements and mandates. This combined approach is most likely to achieve
the required ecosystem-based, integrated and science-based management that
world leaders at Rio acknowledged should underpin ocean management.
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