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Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs): the identification process under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and possible ways forward

Working Papers N°17/2012. Iddri, 2012. 24 p.

Key points:

THE GLOBAL PROCESS FOR THE IDENTIFICATION OF EBSAs AS SET UP BY THE CBD

In 2008, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a list of seven scientific criteria for the identification of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) in need of protection in open-ocean waters and deep-sea habitats. This was completed in 2010 by the definition of an identification process under which regional workshops would be organised in order to facilitate the description of EBSAs. The summary reports of these regional workshops, once endorsed by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, will be forwarded to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the competent arena to discuss any future policy implication with respect to EBSAs identified in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

POLICY ISSUES RAISED BY THE PROCESS

The EBSA identification process is already well-engaged within the CBD but raises a number of issues with respect to its links with other processes already at play in various international organisations, such as the identification of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations or of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas by the International Maritime Organisation. Although these processes serve different aims (the adoption of protective measures), the criteria they use are similar to the CBD criteria and compatible with them. But the major policy issue raised by this process is the role that the UNGA will play when defining the future of EBSAs.

POSSIBLE WAYS FORWARD

Summary reports of the regional workshops will be discussed within the UNGA and its working group on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. As these arenas have not foreseen so far their role in this respect, this paper suggest a number of possible ways forward, including giving a specific mandate to the working group to consider the policy implications of the EBSAs process, grant them additional protection through the creation of marine protected areas or the application of other protection tools or use them as a basis for cooperative marine spatial planning. The paper concludes on the necessary complementary roles of the UNGA and of the CBD.