Sharing Policy brief

The need for strategic environmental assessments and regional environmental assessment in ABNJ for ecologically meaningful management

Kirsty McQuaid, Kerry Howell, Sian Rees, Holly Niner, Giulia La Bianca, Kristina Gjerde and Elisa Morgera

One Ocean Hub, University of Strathclyde, UK

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  • international agreement on marine biodiversity beyond national borders (BBNJ Agreement),
  • ocean sciences,
  • ocean-climate nexus,
  • Ocean Governance,
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA),
  • Regional Environmental Assessments (REAs),
  • deep sea
Target Group
  • Policy makers,
  • Researchers,
  • Community workers
  • English
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This policy brief shows that ecosystem services from the deep sea benefit global society and human wellbeing, highlighting the role of environmental instruments in its protection.

The rich biodiversity of the ocean proves that the role and potential for deep-sea ecosystems in planetary health cannot be understated. This policy brief, published on the 1 August 2022, provides perspectives from marine scientists on the need for impact assessment tools like the Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and Regional Environmental Assessments (REAs) to adequately ensure the effectiveness of the international agreement on marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBJN Agreement) in safe guarding the ocean. This body of knowledge highlights that scholars have clearly illustrated the crucial role the deep sea plays in climate change mitigation, in facilitating other ecological processes and ecosystem services i.e new drugs that can combat rising microbial resistance, across large spatial and temporal scales. However, the provision of these benefits depends on the health and functionality of the ocean and broader ecosystem.

Having identified the limitations of tools like the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in effectively identifying and address cumulative environmental impacts, the SEAs as a tool that enables environmental assessments at a regional-level can provide a more proactive mechanism to biodiversity conservation in areas beyond jurisdiction (ABNJ). The authors assert that SEAs need to include up to date knowledge and support the development of new knowledge on deep-sea ecosystems and services. This work shows that it is also crucial to include REAs within the SEAs because they can provide baseline environmental information to support a proactive approach to collating existing information and provide a framework to support the generation of new knowledge.

Including REAs in SEAs as part of ABNJ in this way is an opportunity to prioritise ecosystems, their benefits and services as part of ocean research and management to ensure that all parties invested in BBNJ collaborate to ensure the oceans sustainable future.

The policy brief was published by the One Ocean Hub and should be cited as:

One Ocean Hub (2022). The need for strategic environmental assessments and regional environmental assessment in ABNJ for ecologically meaningful management (England). Plymouth.