High seas fisheries: what role for a new international instrument?


States are currently discussing the development of a new international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). It is widely acknowledged that fishing is currently the activity with the largest impact on biodiversity in ABNJ. There is a growing consensus that a new agreement should include fisheries, though it is unclear how this can be achieved. Some States continue to argue that fisheries are adequately covered by existing frameworks. Fisheries are closely linked to all elements of the package of issues under discussion, particularly area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs) and environmental impact assessments (EIAs). Fisheries management bodies will therefore likely play a role in the implementation of various aspects of a new agreement. A new agreement can also complement and enhance existing fisheries management frameworks and contribute to advancing an integrated approach to ocean governance. An ILBI could improve integration and place complementary obligations on States, as well as provide over- arching principles to improve coherence of the global system of ocean governance.