The BBNJ Agreement: Through the Prism of Deep-Sea Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

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Ocean Development and International Law


On 19 June 2023, member States of the United Nations adopted, by consensus, the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement). The BBNJ Agreement seeks to address one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century—managing our deep ocean environment, including its ecosystems and resources, in a way that does not lead to its long-term decline and maintains its potential to meet the needs of present and future generations. This article assesses the BBNJ Agreement through an analysis of its application to deep-sea vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). As VMEs represent a key component of marine biodiversity and are particularly susceptible to anthropogenic disturbance, they provide a useful medium for undertaking a legal analysis of the provisions, rules, and procedures of the recently adopted instrument.

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