Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

The Issue: For the 61% of the ocean that lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction, the development of a new international agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is now underway (BBNJ agreement): the UN’s Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. Science, technology and innovation cross-cut the negotiations, playing a crucial role in: area-based management tools; environmental impact assessments; capacity building and technology transfer; and sharing benefits from marine genetic resources. Linking deep ocean science with international policy development is critical to overcome challenges in the negotiations and secure a strong basis for this historic agreement.

The Working Group: The BBNJ working group aims to facilitate science-policy engagement in the development of the BBNJ agreement. Currently, the working group has 151 members. Key objectives include:

1. Synthesise scientific knowledge relating to the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ and identify key issues for the development of the BBNJ instrument;
2. Publish open-access academic papers, policy briefs, and educational materials on key issues for BBNJ and provide input to the BBNJ negotiation process through submissions, side-events, workshops and engagement;
3. Provide a focal point for deep-sea scientific expertise and network engagement on BBNJ relevant issues and a platform for collaboration between scientists and other stakeholders.

Current Activities:

Past Activities:

New Publication (November 2020)

  • New report commissioned by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) investigates the scientific capacity challenges facing Small Island Developing States in relation to marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction and proposes options to address such challenges through a new treaty for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. The report was led by Harriet Harden-Davies and Marjo Vierros alongside an expert advisory panel: Judith Gobin (Professor, University of West Indies), Marcel Jaspars (Professor, University of Aberdeen), Angelique Pouponneau (CEO, Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust) and Katy Soapi (Research Scientist, Fiji). Read the summary for policymakers.


  • Building ambition for the High Seas Treaty: June IUCN/DOSI webinar series. If you missed these, catch them here: Webinar 1 – MGR, Webinar 2 – EIA/SEA, Webinar 3 – MPA & ABMT, Webinar 4 – EIAs & climate change, Webinar 5 – Key tools to strengthen ocean resilience, Webinar 6 – Fishing in the Twilight Zone, Illuminating challenges at the next fisheries frontier. The goal of the three sessions was for all to better understand the UN Treaty on the Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (the High Seas Treaty), to address potential points of divergence, and to build ambition for the Treaty. This effort is aimed at keeping momentum going during the extended intersession period of the negotiations, imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Publication (June 2020)

DOSI Commentary on the revised draft text of an agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (20 February 2020)

High Seas Treaty Dialogue ( 20-21 January 2020, Nobel Institute, Oslo, Norway)

  • High Seas Treaty Dialogue on Marine Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing.  Harriet Harden-Davies was invited to discuss on of the most challenging issues to date in the BBNJ negotiations.

Meeting: Towards a package: marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (22-23 January 2020, Royal Society of Edinburgh, UK)

  • DOSI co-sponsored (along with University of Aberdeen and the Atlas Project) a gathering of more than 50 participants to discuss the development BBNJ. The participants included policymakers, diplomats, civil society and academic experts from legal, scientific and other backgrounds.  With the fourth (and possibly final) round of negotiations fast approaching, this workshop provided a valuable opportunity to exchange views and identify areas where further discussions are needed.  Harriet Harden-Davies was an invited speaker for the session on Access and Benefit-Sharing.  In addition to the workshop, a public event and reception was held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on the evening of 22 January. Harriet Harden-Davies delivered the opening address.

New Publication (September 2019)

3rd Intergovernmental Conference (August 2019)

DOSI Attended with a full delegation, disseminating a new policy brief, taking part in discussions and delivering a DOSI side-event.




2nd Intergovernmental Conference (March – April 2019)

Side Events: In support of the second two-week conference, DOSI collaborated in five side events: (

  • 27/03; “Facilitating Capacity Development, Transfer of Marine Technology and Ocean Science in BBNJ” IOC & DOSI. DOSI speaker: Muriel Rabone
  • 28/03: “Mare Geneticum and an Ecosystem Approach: Power, Openness and Sharing” IUCN, DOSI, University of Aberdeen. DOSI speaker: Muriel Rabone
  • 29/03: “Conservation, Climate Change and Ocean Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction” Papua New Guinea; Belize, Federated States of Micronesia, DOSI. DOSI speaker: Diva Amon
  • 30/03: “PSIDS Regional workshop”: IUCN, Norway, DOSI. DOSI speaker: Harriet Harden-Davies
  • 01/04: “The Role of Science and a Scientific Body Under the New Instrument” Canada, High Seas Alliance, DOSI. DOSI speakers: Paul Snelgrove, Harriet Harden-Davies

Some of the members of the DOSI delegation March/April 2019.

Interventions: In total, three DOSI interventions were made: intervention 1; intervention 2, intervention 3

Policy Briefs: Two new policy briefs were published by DOSI in advance of the meeting and have been widely distributed:

  1. “Access and sharing benefits from marine genetic resources from ABNJ: building on best practices in the scientific community”
  2. “The Full Value of Marine Genetic Resources”

A summary of the conference was published on DSM Observer, co-authored by Aria Ritz Finkelstein and Jeffrey Marlow.

1st Intergovernmental Conference (September 2018)

DOSI facilitated scientific and technical input to the development of the BBNJ instrument. As BBNJ issues cut across a number of working group areas, this working group facilitates coordination and engagement across all DOSI-relevant areas. The DOSI delegation to the negotiations was: Harriet Harden-Davies (University of Wollongong), Jeff Marlow (Harvard University), Paul Snelgrove (Memorial University) and Porter Hoagland (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).

Policy Briefs: DOSI compiled and distributed four policy briefs:

Side Events: Four officially sanctioned side-events were organized and co-organized through DOSI members:

Panelists of the DOSI, UNESCO-IOC, Maldives side event

Conference Report: DOSI’s report on the first intergovernmental conference can be found here.

A summary of the conference was published on DSM observer, authored by Harriet Harden-Davies


BBNJ Working Group Workshop, University of Southampton, UK (April 2018)

Science diplomacy for stewardship: advancing science-based policy for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction through the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI). Link to Report.

Paul Snelgrove attended BBNJ ICG and presented on behalf of DOSI BBNJ working group during a side-event with the IOC, Belgium and Nauru entitled The potential interlinkages between the UN Ocean Science Decade and scientific aspects in the context of BBNJ in April 2018.

DOSI BBNJ Publications