GOBI Secretariat

Lead: David Johnson, GOBI Coordinator


Since its inception in 2008, GOBI has been supported by a dedicated Secretariat team. In 2013, this role was taken up by Seascape Consultants Ltd in the UK, led by GOBI Coordinator Prof. David Johnson.

In 2016, the GOBI Secretariat was awarded a grant by Germany’s International Climate Initiative (IKI) to undertake scientific research in support the international marine conservation agenda, spearheaded by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The grant of €5.2m spread over five years enables the undertaking of six complementary research activities, as well as their coordination and promulgation by the Secretariat.

The objectives of the GOBI Secretariat are:

  • To maintain and support the GOBI partnership, ensuring its continuing relevance and utility.
  • To foster collaboration amongst the GOBI partnership, exploring and promoting overarching themes and applications for its collective expertise.

To achieve its objectives, the GOBI Secretariat focuses on:

  • Coordination of the GOBI partnership’s contribution of data and expert knowledge to the CBD’s EBSA process, and promotion of the EBSA process to other UN Agencies and relevant competent authorities.
  • Representation and promotion of the GOBI partnership’s collective expertise at meetings and conferences, whilst also presenting the latest findings from its dedicated research activities.
  • Maintenance of the Secretariat function by implementing project steer, providing internal communications, partnerhsip administration, meeting logistics and information dissemination portals.

The GOBI Secretariat maintains its ongoing provision of administrative support of its membership to ensure GOBI’s continued operation and relevance. The GOBI brochure and website are kept up to date, and a Twitter account is maintained (@GOBIsecretariat). A twice-yearly GOBI newsletter is produced and distributed electronically and in print at key meetings of the international marine conservation community.

As well as performing its routine in-house tasks and activities, GOBI Secretariat operates on many other fronts in close collaboration with its partners, organising dissemination events, contributing to high-level marine policy discussions, supporting UN Agencies and competent authorities in the delivery of workshops, and fostering other partnerships for cooperation.

Some recent events to which the GOBI Secretariat has contributed include:

  • The Preparatory Committee meetings (PrepCom 1-4) and the subsequent and ongoing Intergovernmental Conference series (IGC 1-4) on the development of an international legally binding instrument 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, in New York.
  • CBD COP13 (Cancun, 2017) and COP14 (Sharm El-Sheik, 2019).
  • CMS COP12 (Manila, 2017) and COP13 (Gandhinagar, 2020).
  • Regional EBSA workshops for the Black Sea and Caspian Sea (Baku, 2017), Baltic Sea (Helsinki, 2018) and the Northeast Atlantic Ocean (Stockholm, 2019), CBD’s Informal Advisory Group on EBSAs meeting (Montreal, 2019), and CBD SBSTTA24 meeting (Geneva, 2022).
  • The United Nations Ocean Conference (New York, 2017), the fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (La Serena – Coquimbo, 2017), the fourth World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (Montreal, 2018), IUCN WCPA’s Beyond the Aichi Targets Task Force Marine Conservation Consultation meeting (Paris, 2018), the Marine Regions Forum (Berlin, 2019), IUCN World Conservation Congress (Marseille, 2021).

Under the umbrella of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative and in partnership with the CBD Secretariat, the GOBI Secretariat has organised and delivered capacity-building workshops in Costa Rica (2017) for the Wider Caribbean and Central America, and national EBSA workshops in Cameroon (2018) and he Republic of Maldives (2019).

The GOBI Secretariat fosters close links with other similar projects supported by Germany’s International Climate Initiative, such as Strong High Seas, Mami Wata and MARISMA.


The following publications have been lead by the GOBI Secretariat:

  • The Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative: Promoting Scientific Support for Global Ocean Governance, by D Johnson and colleagues, in Aquatic Conservation, Vol. 29 Issue S2 (download).
  • Reviewing the EBSA Process: Improving on Success, by D Johnson and colleagues, in Marine Policy 2018, Vol. 88 (download).
  • Securing Effective and Equitable Coverage of Marine Protected Areas: The UK’s Progress Towards Achieving Convention on Biological Diversity Commitments and Lessons Learned for the Way Forward, by D Johnson and colleagues, in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2019, Vol 29 Issue S2 (download).
  • Rockall and Hatton: Resolving a Super Wicked Marine Governance Problem in the High Seas of the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, by D Johnson and colleagues, in Frontiers in Marine Science 2019, Vol 6 Issue 69 (download).
  • Protecting the Lost City Hydrothermal Vent System: All Is Not Lost, or Is It? by D Johnson, in Marine Policy 2019, Vol. 107 (download).
  • A New Impetus for Particularly Sensitive Sea Area Designation, by D Johnson and C Barrio Froján, in Journal of Coastal Research 2020, 95(1):829-834 (download).
  • A role for UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme under the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, by M A Ferreira and colleagues, in Marine Policy 2022, 136 104930 (download).
  • A review of ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in the North Atlantic, by D Johnson and C Barrio Froján, in Açoreana 2021, XI(3) (download).

Other relevant publications to which the GOBI Secretariat has contributed include:

  • Mainstreaming marine biodiversity into the SDGs: The Role of Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (SDG 14.5), by D Diz and colleagues, in Marine Policy 2017, Vol 93 (download).
  • Defining the Qualitative Elements of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 with Regard to the Marine and Coastal Environment in order to Strengthen Global Efforts for Marine Biodiversity Conservation Outlined in the UN SDG14, by S Rees and colleagues, in Marine Policy 2017, Vol 93 (download).
  • Bridging the Divide: Social-ecological Coherence in Marine Protected Area Network Design, by S Rees and colleagues, in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2018, Vol 28 Issue 3 (download).
  • Marine Spatial Planning in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, by G Wright and colleagues, in Marine Policy 2019, online (download).
  • Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) of the Eastern Tropical and Temperate Pacifc Ocean, by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Vol 5 (download).
  • Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) of the South-Eastern Atlantic Ocean, by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Vol 6 (download).


The GOBI Secretariat’s overseeing and coordinating role for the diverse areas of expertise and the multiple research themes undertaken by the GOBI partnership ensures that the most pertinent expert scientific knowledge is compiled and applied to the differing elements and perspectives of global marine conservation, be they scientific, technical, logistical or political.

By supporting and promoting the EBSA process, maximum value is extracted from the considerable global efforts expended in its implementation, whilst always exploring new ways to augment the potential of all the acquired data and maintain its momentum.

Combining information from GOBI’s various research activities with that from the wider GOBI partnership and generating actionable knowledge for end-users of such knowledge is a key activity of the Secretariat.