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About GOBI

John Weller_Ocean and turtle
Swimming turtle
Credit: John Weller, john [at]


Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI)

The Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative is an international partnership advancing the scientific basis for conserving biological diversity in the deep seas and open oceans. It aims to help countries, as well as regional and global organisations, to use and develop data, tools, and methodologies to identify ecologically significant areas in the oceans, with an initial focus on areas beyond national jurisdiction.

This initiative began in late 2008 as a collaboration between the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), IUCN, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Census of Marine Life, Ocean Biogeographic Information System and the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab of Duke University. The initiative continues to seek additional collaborators to help bring the best science and data to bear on the identification of ecologically significant areas beyond national jurisdiction. GOBI is facilitated by IUCN with core support from BfN.

The work under this initiative builds on the scientific criteria adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2008 to identify ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in the global marine realm. It ultimately aims to help countries meet the goals adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity and at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. These global goals relate to reducing the rate of biodiversity loss, applying ecosystem approaches, and establishing representative marine protected area networks by 2012.


 Humpback whales
Humpback whale mother and calf
Credit: Silke Stuckenbrock/Silke Photo 2008/Marine Photobank


Idenfifying ecologically and biologically significant areas in the deep and open oceans

In 2008 in Bonn, Germany, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a set of seven scientific criteria to identify ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in the global marine realm (see CBD COP 9 Decision IX/20). The criteria were compiled at a CBD Expert Workshop in the Azores (see brochure).


Area-based management approaches and tools can address a multitude of threats. These tools include marine protected areas and networks, prior environmental impact assessments, improved regulation of sectoral activities, and broader ecosystem-based marine spatial planning. Using the CBD EBSA criteria to identify specific ocean areas that require enhanced protection can thus help to achieve a variety of conservation and management objectives.



 Feather star
Feather star on sea fan
Credit: Stacy Jupiter 2009/Marine Photobank


Initiative goal and objectives

GOBI's goal is to identify a set of EBSA candidates deserving protection by 2012, based on good science and with some level of certainty.

GOBI's objectives are:

  1. To establish and support an international scientific collaboration to assist States and relevant regional and global organisations to identify ecologically significant areas using the best available scientific data, tools, and methods;
  2. To provide guidance on how the CBD's scientific criteria can be interpreted and applied towards management, including representative networks of marine protected areas;
  3. To assist in developing regional analyses with relevant organisations and stakeholders.


Sea urchins
Sea urchins (Diadema antillarum)
Credit: Adán-Guillermo Jordán-Garza 2008/Marine Photobank


GOBI's structure


GOBI is a partnership of 19 scientific institutions, which provide the scientific background to GOBI's work. To obtain advice from and enhance coordination with other organisations, GOBI has established an Advisory Board and a Science Board.

The GOBI Advisory Board consists of representatives from the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),  the Global Environment Facility (GEF),  the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and, as an observer, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (DOALOS).

The GOBI Science Board is composed of eight scientists who ensure the fulfilment of GOBI's goal and objectives.


 Sea star
Sea star (Coronaster briareus)
Credit: Brooke et al./NOAA OE 2005/Marine Photobank


GOBI publications


GOBI 2009 report

The first GOBI report Defining ecologically or biologically significant areas in the open oceans and deep seas: Analysis, tools, resources and illustrations was presented at the CBD Scientific Expert Workshop in October 2009 in Ottawa, Canada.

The report provides a general overview of scientific tools, technologies and data sources that can inform the application of the CBD EBSA criteria as well as a number of illustrations on how these techniques can be applied to individual EBSA criteria.







The GOBI Brochure Working towards high seas conservation (6MB) provides an overview of GOBI's work and objectives. It is also available as a hard copy on request.



GOBI briefings_title page




The GOBI Briefings, which were launched at the tenth Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10) in October 2010, contain a dossier with information on GOBI's work in the process of identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) and progress since the release of the GOBI Brochure.

Download briefings here





Juvenile laysan albatross
Credit: Glen Tepke/Marine Photobank

Looking ahead


GOBI continues to seek out and involve additional scientific groups and is planning to increase its involvement and cooperation with governments, international and non-governmental organisations, as well as industry stakeholders to improve the scientific basis through applying multi-criteria analyses in different ocean regions, network design, regional workshops and capacity development.



For more information about GOBI, please contact:

  • David Johnson, GOBI Project Coordinator: david.johnson [at]
  • Philip Weaver, GOBI Science Coordinator: phil.weaver [at]


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