Date: May 2, 2008

The second meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group of the United Nations General Assembly to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (the Working Group) concluded today (2nd May) at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York.

The meeting heard from leading experts and governments acknowledging bottom trawling as having a seriously destructive impact on seamounts and other deep-sea ecosystems and emphasizing the importance of implementing UNGA Resolution 61/105 to protect deep-sea ecosystems from the destructive impact of bottom trawling and other methods of deep-sea fishing. There was also widespread support for the use of marine protected areas on the high seas as a means of conserving and protecting biodiversity. Matthew Gianni of the DSCC said “It is encouraging to hear so many governments continue to emphasize the need for the protection of deep-sea biodiversity and we look forward to seeing additional actions by States and regional fisheries management organizations to implement Resolution 61/105.”

Tabling a draft joint summary statement for discussion, the co-chairs of the meeting, Ambassador Hill of Australia and Ambassador Robledo of Mexico, asked for comments which will be considered before a final summary is submitted to the President of the United Nations General Assembly during the next Session of the UN General Assembly beginning in September of this year.

The final summary is likely to include the following points:

There is support for systematic environmental impact assessments for all activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including through the development of global guidelines;

Many countries recognized that there are gaps in the governance of activities which impact the biodiversity of the high seas of the world’s oceans which need to be addressed. The Meeting agreed that UNCLOS should remain the framework for addressing these gaps;

There is support for continuation of the ad hoc working group of the General Assembly as the appropriate forum to address these issues;

There is an urgent need to promote additional research and information-sharing on new and emerging activities on the high seas. In this regard, particular concerns were raised about ocean iron fertilization and carbon sequestration.

Emphasizing the importance of protecting vulnerable marine areas, DSCC member Greenpeace announced the discovery of a new species of sponge as the Meeting started.

Discovered during a research voyage to the Bering Sea, the sponge was found in one of the world’s deepest underwater canyons. Greenpeace is calling for protection of the Bering Sea as one of the richest marine ecosystems on earth. Senior Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner John Hocevar said “This discovery highlights how unique these canyons are and how little is known about the deep sea. Half of the 14 coral species and two-thirds of the 20 species of sponge we documented were previously unrecorded in the Bering Sea. Setting aside these areas as marine reserves would reap benefits for fishing communities as well as the environment.”