OceanCare was among the conservation non-governmental organizations attending the third session of the Preparatory Committee (Prep Com III) for the new international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Prep Com III took place at UN Headquarters in New York, USA, from 27 March to 7 April 2017.
The focus of OceanCare’s participation was to advocate for incorporating into the new instrument effective measures to manage underwater noise pollution generated by human activities in the high seas and deep seabed. OceanCare is particularly concerned that noise must be considered in the provisions for environmental impact assessments and area-based management tools, such as marine protected areas (MPAs).
Lora L. Nordtvedt Reeve represented OceanCare at BBNJ Prep Com III with the primary mission of discussing with national delegates the legal mechanisms available for including noise in the new BBNJ instrument. She spoke with a number of nations that expressed strong interest in learning more about the impacts of noise and requested information such as legal and scientific supporting documentation. Lora also made two interventions on behalf of OceanCare regarding noise. The first intervention was to comment on the urgency of incorporating noise management into the proposed framework for high seas MPAs. OceanCare spoke on the importance of assuring adequate size of the protected area and buffers to protect species from acoustic impacts, as well as on the necessity of protecting migratory corridors and areas of biological diversity that are particularly vulnerable to noise.
The second intervention was in response to discussions in the Prep Com regarding the crosscutting issue of whether the new instrument should be applied on a global or regional basis and its relationship to existing global and regional agreements. Lora noted that fundamentally OceanCare supports the application of the new instrument to all activities in the high seas water column and the Area as provided under UNCLOS and General Assembly Resolution 69/292. Underscoring OceanCare’s view that it is critical for the new agreement to be applied globally, Lora used the example of noise to demonstrate the need for an overarching international framework to conserve BBNJ. The OceanCare intervention stressed that noise is caused by almost all human activities in the ocean and significantly contributes to cumulative, synergistic and long-term impacts. The intervention highlighted that noise also easily passes across national boundaries and throughout ABNJ, and therefore requires international cooperation for effective management. OceanCare applauded regional efforts but recognized that although they represent valuable steps toward managing ocean noise, they are partial solutions and are not sufficient alone.
Finally the OceanCare intervention advocated that developing global standards for best practices in the new instrument’s provisions for environmental impact assessments and area-based management tools—including use of the best available science and the precautionary and ecosystem approaches—is the most promising opportunity to manage ocean noise and other impacts in the high seas and deep seabed. OceanCare urged that this work should build cooperatively on existing agreements and take advantage of expertise and lessons learned in regional and sectoral bodies, while also assuring common international standards of transparency and quality in decision-making processes.
Through active participation in the BBNJ Prep Com, OceanCare affirmed its support for the new instrument and advocated for the overarching framework that is needed to implement management measures for underwater noise pollution in the world’s oceans.