Introduction to Marine and Coastal Biodiversity

The TEMATEA Secretariat is pleased to announce that funding from Belgium (Federal Public Service for Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment) has allowed to initiate the development of a TEMATEA marine and coastal biodiversity module.

Covering over two-thirds of the planet, marine and coastal ecosystems are extremely diverse in nature, ranging from the seafloor to the ocean surface, from terrestrial and near-shore areas to the high seas. The services provided by these marine ecosystems, including the regulation of our climate, are of vital importance to life itself, particularly for insular nations and other communities living in coastal areas, where the most dramatic population growth has occurred and is expected to continue, particularly in Asia and Africa.

The marine environment is transboundary by nature. Coastal waters are influenced by activities on land. The level of environmental protection within the area of national jurisdiction of one state often results in a direct impact on the waters of neighbouring states. The conservation and sustainable use of the waters beyond national jurisdiction form therefore a collective interest and obligation. Because of these strong interactions and the existence of international waters, the conservation on the marine environment calls for intensive national and international cooperation.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) establishes the legal framework within which all human activities in the maritime area must be carried out, containing several obligations for States to protect and preserve the marine environment and to conserve and manage the marine natural resources. It recognizes the right of all States to engage activities such as fishing and shipping, but subjects these rights to certain obligations, such as the protection and preservation the marine environment.

In addition to UNCLOS, several other both regional and international bodies are relevant for the marine and coastal biodiversity. Due to funding constraints, for now, only the relevant commitments originating from global agreements are being incorporated into the new TEMATEA module, in particular commitments from:

  • The World Summit on Sustainable Development - Plan of Implementation
  • The UN General Assembly
  • UN Fish Stock Agreement and its Review Conference
  • The FAO Committee on Fisheries
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity
  • The Convention on Migratory Species
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
  • The World Heritage Convention
  • The Ramsar Convention on wetlands
  • The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling
  • The IMO Ballast Water Management Convention
  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

This new TEMATEA module will help national experts working on marine issues in the same way that the other modules have supported national experts working on other topics.

The module is expected to be online by October 2010 for a public peer review. The contents will initially only be available in English and only cover global agreements. The integration of Regional adaptations (e.g. inclusion of EU directives, OSPAR, Regional Seas, etc.) and translation into the other languages will be added once funds for this purpose are secured.