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. The working group has 79 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:

  • The series of four intergovernmental conferences (IGC) to craft the new legal instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is underway. We are pursuing a number of avenues to bridge policy and science, including: publishing policy briefs, contributing scientific input to the negotiation process, convening discussions and events.

Past Activities:

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