High-level BBNJ side-event highlights ISA’s commitment to protecting the marine environment over the last 25 years

Press Release

UN Permanent Representatives, senior officials as well as many legal and scientific experts attending the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Conference for the conservation and sustainable development of marine diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) in New York this week attended a side-event on Tuesday 26 March dedicated to acknowledging the 25 years of existence of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Organized by ISA, in partnership with the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea and the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea, the side-event provided an opportunity to take stock of ISA’s contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity of the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, termed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the  “Area.”

Most notably, participants recognized ISA’s unique role as the only organization with a mandate to develop measures and tools to provide for the effective protection of the marine environment in the Area.

Key milestones included: the establishment of nine Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs), which are fully protected from mining within the Clarion-Clipperton Zone; the development of a central database designed to host all existing available deep-sea environmental information; and recent progress made in developing draft regulations to govern exploitation, including detailed provisions relating to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).

In his opening statement, ISA’s Legal Counsel and Deputy to the Secretary-General, Mr. Alfonso Ascencio-Herrera, underscored that 2019 marks a triple anniversary. It has been 25 years since UNCLOS entered into force, ISA was established, and the Part XI Implementing Agreement was adopted.

Mr. Ascencio-Herrera also highlighted that since 1994, the Area has been managed through ISA based on equality between States under a comprehensive legal regime that is designed to achieve the sustainable use of marine mineral resources for the benefit of mankind.

In his opening remarks, Co-Chair Admiral Md Khurshed Alam of Bangladesh further emphasized the universal character of UNCLOS, and the major innovation introduced by the 1994 Agreement.   

H.E Mr Courtenay Rattray, Jamaican Ambassador to the UN, and Mr. Myeong-rae Park, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea, delivered congratulatory messages to mark ISA’s 25th Anniversary, highlighting the importance of cooperation among Member States and stakeholders.

Ambassador Rattray expressed that Jamaica was proud to host ISA and highlighted that one of ISA’s strengths is its continued efforts to evolve. Mr. Park further emphasized the importance of capacity-building and the role of ISA in this regard.

The panel discussion provided an opportunity to emphasize key lessons learnt from ISA’s work over the last 25 years, which could contribute to the deliberation of delegates at the BBNJ Conference. Particular attention was given to the existing framework developed for EIAs, along with ISA’s experience in addressing potential environmental impacts through the development of regulations, rules and procedures. Delegates also noted ISA’s significant contribution in delivering meaningful capacity-building activities and welcomed the introduction of standardized approaches for regional environmental management planning, that would enable better engagement of stakeholders.

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