Marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) represent nearly half of the Earth’s surface and a significant portion of its biodiversity. The remoteness of ABNJ and a lack of knowl- edge previously placed them beyond the reach of human activities, but technological advancements, increased scientific knowledge, and growing demand for resources have increased interest in these areas, driving exploration and exploitation. Activities such as shipping and fishing have intensified and expanded, while a range of new activi- ties are under development. Furthermore, climate change and ocean acidification are predicted to compound the impacts of these activities and place further pressure on marine ecosystems.
The international community has become increasingly aware of the growing threats to ecosystems in ABNJ and States have been discuss- ing options to conserve and sustainably use their biodiversity. In 2015, after almost ten years of informal discussions, States took the historic decision to open negotiations for a new international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine bio- logical diversity of ABNJ, under the framework of the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS). The next few years will therefore be of great importance for the future of international ocean governance as States begin to navigate the complex issues at stake and negotiate the provisions of a new agreement.