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MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction

The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs), where human activities are severely limited, is an important measure for protecting and conserving the oceans. Marine species depend on complex relationships with other species and their habitats; deep sea habitats such as seamounts, cold-water coral formations and hydrothermal vents hold large reservoirs of unknown biodiversity and support highly migratory fish stocks and marine mammals.


In Areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) - where often little is known about the specific features and functioning of ecosystems - MPAs can be an important safeguard against irreversible biodiversity loss. Here MPAs can provide a mechanism for protecting not just what is known at present to be important, but what may turn out to be important in the future.


Marine zones under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 (based on Gorina-Ysern 2004)

ABNJ cover some 64 per cent of the surface of our oceans and provide over 90 per cent of its volume. They comprise the water column beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of coastal states (or its territorial sea if a coastal state has not exercised its right to an EEZ), i.e., the high seas, but also include areas of the deep seabed, ocean floor and subsoil that are not subject to national jurisdiction (defined as ‘the Area’ by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).


Die Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) is a team of international environmental lawyers based in London. FIELD believes strongly that creating effective international environmental law is an essential part of solving global environmental problems.


The guide MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction guide seeks to help government negotiators, representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other policymakers involved in environmental protection efforts at the international level to utilise the political momentum created by this recommendation. It aims to facilitate a better understanding of the legal context, relevant policy processes, and possible solutions for establishing MPAs in ABNJ – with a particular focus on the creation of a new multilateral agreement under UNCLOS.


The guide partially builds on a FIELD publication of 2007 which is attached for public relations and documentation purposes. The new guide also benefited greatly from comments and suggestions that have been given by many experts from civil society organizations and international and regional organizations.


At an early stage of distribution, the feedback that has FIELD obtained from a number of experts pointed out that the guide is considered to be very helpful.




Project partner:

Joy Hyvarinen

Executive Director

Foundation for International Environmental Law

and Development (FIELD)

Suite D, 1st Floor

The Merchant Centre

1 New Street Square

London EC4A 3BF

United Kingdom


FIELD website


MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction

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