The present international legal and institutional regime set by the UN convention for the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay convention) to govern the ocean has been described as an « unfinished agenda » regarding the status of high seas. In 2017, after a process lasting more than a decade, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established an intergovernmental conference to negotiate an International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI) on the conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). At the end of the third round of negotiations in August 2019, ILBI negotiators seem to accept that some form of global governance structure – through a Conference of the Parties (COP) – will be needed to ensure a proper implementation of the instrument.
The Thermal Dome and the Sargasso Sea are two sites representative of the diversity and importance of the ecosystems of the high seas. They perfectly illustrate the fact that the ecological limits (interconnectivity of ecosystems) do not correspond to the legal delimitations established by the Montego Bay Convention. They are dynamic formations, which move, shrink, and expand with currents and winds. They are mainly located beyond national jurisdiction on the high seas, but may « encroach » permanently, regularly or from time to time on EEZs that are under the jurisdiction of States.
The University of Brest (UBO) is a partner of SARGADOM, a project supported by the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM), in collaboration with MarViva, an NGO based in Costa-Rica, the Sargasso Sea Commission and the French Biodiversity Agency (OFB). The objective of the project is to develop and test methodologies to assess needs and means for conservation strategies in the high sea with the Thermal Dome (East Central Pacific) and the Sargasso Sea as research fields. The results will contribute to BBNJ negotiation and implementation by providing lessons learns on integrated socio-ecological assessment and hybrid governance for high sea conservation consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its implementing agreements, as part of a strategy based on an ecosystem approach.
The strategy proposed by the project is based on a DPSIR (Driving Force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response) analysis in each site, and an analysis of the current governance of the two sites and potential improvements, which will lead to the development of proposals to improve the governance and to establish conservation and management measures in these sites.