Governing half of the planet for all the world's people – new rules for the high seas must include needs of poorest countries

Press release, 10 July 2017
As the final round of the United Nations' preparatory committee meeting on the establishment of a new mechanism to govern the high seas begins, IIED director Andrew Norton said:

"Moves to govern the high seas must enable the least developed countries to play an active role in protecting and sustainably managing the ocean. And make sure any activity in these waters benefits everyone – particularly the poorest countries.

"This meeting is an opportunity to agree a new mechanism that ensures all countries, not just the wealthy few, can benefit from the ocean's resources. IIED is calling for the creation of a fund into which countries that profit from the high seas, whether from fishing or any other activity, contribute a percentage of their profits. 

"This fund would help the poorest countries become involved in monitoring the environmental health of the high seas, participate in research and development, and sustainably use the high seas as a source for medicines, science and other genetic resources. 

"It is also important that the new governing mechanism for the high seas eliminates the risk of extracting excessive amount of fish for the bioprospecting of marine genetic resources. Any extraction of fish from the high seas, including for medical use, scientific research, supplements or cosmetics, needs to have clear limits set by a scientific group established under an agreed global governing body whose aim is protecting the health of the ocean. This is key in order to protect fish stocks and ensure the ocean’s resources are shared fairly. 

"We cannot afford to keep the status quo. This is about sustainably sharing 50 per cent of the planet with 100 per cent of the world's population. The opportunity to make sure the ocean can benefit all people fairly and that it is protected for our children, grandchildren and beyond must not be missed."

EVENT: IIED and the Pew Charitable Trust, in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN, are holding a side event titled 'Towards an equitable mechanism to govern the high seas: implications for poor coastal communities' – on Thursday, 13 July 2017, in Conference Room 2, UN Headquarters, New York, from 1.15-2.30pm.

Media enquiries

For an interview or more information, contact Beth Herzfeld, IIED head of media, on +44 (0)7557 658 482 or email

Notes to editors

Preparatory committee: Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction

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