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CBD convenes EBSA side event at the International Seabed Authority

Kingston, Jamaica, 21 July 2015

Key topics for discussion at the 21st Annual Session of the International Seabed Authority were the development of a regulatory framework for exploitation of polymetallic nodule resources in marine areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, and the procedures and criteria for the extension of exploration contracts. 

A Convention on Biological Diversity side event was held on Tuesday 21 July, co-chaired by Kristina Gjerde and David Johnson, covering the relevant work of the CBD on EBSAs and Guidelines for Biodiversity-inclusive Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments (as applied to deep seas). Kristina welcomed delegations and explained the intention to provide and insight to the EBSA process and other CBD work of relevance to ISA. David noted that in due course the ISA may wish to provide relevant environmental information (as reported to the Authority by Contractors) to the CBD Information Sharing Mechanism. He also suggested that ISA should be interested in any EBSAs coincident with mining licenses and in any EBSAs that might be subject to transboundary impacts of mining such as plumes. 

The side event comprised four presentations. Firstly, Joe Appiott (CBD Secretariat) presented an overview of the CBD’s relevant work on marine and coastal biodiversity. In addition to EBSAs, CBD is compiling information on impacts from selected pressures and threats, developing tools and guidelines, facilitating capacity building and partnerships and providing information sharing mechanisms. CBD Decisions relating to EBSAs were recalled and explained. It was reiterated that EBSA descriptions rely on expert scientific judgment to describe and map areas meeting agreed scientific criteria. EBSAs reflect the inherent value of biodiversity and are not MPAs, fisheries closures or jurisdictional demarcations. To date, nine summary reports have been submitted by CBD to UNGA and 265.7 million square kilometres of the ocean has been covered by Regional EBSA Workshops. 

David Johnson (GOBI Secretariat) then presented on scientific aspects including a case study of the Hydrothermal Vent Fields EBSA, described by the North-West Atlantic Regional EBSA Workshop. Hydrothermal vents, supporting a limited number of endemic taxa, are unique habitats. 10 vent fields north of 23 degrees north (a subset of the 22 vent fields along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between the Azores and 14 degrees north) are included in the North-West Atlantic EBSA description, including Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse (TAG) and Snake Pit vent fields that both fall within the French exploratory mining license area. 

Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri (UNEP-Caribbean Environment Programme) set out implications of the CBD’s work on EBSAs at the regional level. She explained the Caribbean experience and showed the balance of EBSA descriptions within and beyond national description in the Caribbean. 

Finally, Kristina Gjerde (IUCN) explained CBD’s work on Voluntary Guidelines for the consideration of biodiversity in EIAs and SEAs (CBD Decision XI/18). This presentation recalled a workshop held in Manila, Philippines in 2009, where ecological, practical (operational) and governance differences had been scoped with regard to applying EIA and SEA in Area Beyond National Jurisdiction. Key elements of the CBD EIA Guidelines were explained.

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