Date: October 16, 2008

The IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) attended by Governments and NGOs has concluded in Barcelona with strong support for high seas conservation.

IUCN Members adopted resolutions on high seas bottom fishing and high seas Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that seek State action to increase the protection afforded to vulnerable areas.

The resolution on high seas bottom fishing urged States at the 2009 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to consider calling for an immediate suspension of capture and trade in deep sea bottom fish not caught in compliance with the conservation measures required in UNGA resolution 61/105 83-86. DSCC Political Advisor Mathew Gianni said: “This puts States on notice that IUCN and NGOs, together with a growing number of States will be calling for an immediate suspension of inadequately managed high seas bottom fishing.”

Regarding high seas MPAs, the resolution on accelerating progress on MPAs called on States to promote the creation of effectively managed marine protected areas beyond national jurisdictions, consistent with international law. A third resolution that focused specifically on areas beyond national jurisdiction called for enhanced efforts to identify ecologically and biologically significant areas using scientific criteria and guidelines of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other relevant criteria, to protect the habitats and species in such areas and to facilitate the development of representative networks of MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The WCC resolution on areas beyond national jurisdiction also urged UNGA member states to adopt a resolution which would require States to develop environmental assessments for activities affecting areas beyond national jurisdiction and calls for States to apply high seas governance principles and approaches consistently and effectively, including the use of an integrated ecosystem-based management and precautionary approach.

Outgoing IUCN President Valli Moosa launched 10 Principles for Governance of the High Seas which will be presented to the UNGA to help guide the review and reform of existing institutions.

The Congress also saw the launch of a new ‘High Seas Gems’ booklet, which spotlights ten high seas areas in need of priority attention. Organised by the IUCN, the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), MCBI, and cosmetics company Chantecaille Beaute and with the support of the DSCC, the launch brought together representatives of governments, foundations, the media and NGOs to discuss how protection can be achieved and the urgency required.