Marine Environmental Protection

The Conservation, Use, and Study of Marine Biodiversity

Background and Purpose

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a State may exercise different types of sovereign rights in the territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline (low-water line along the coast), in the contiguous zone (24 nautical miles), in the exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles), and on the continental shelf falling within the range recognized by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. With regard to the remaining areas, i.e., the high seas--lying further away, and beyond the jurisdiction of any state--no established rules exist on the conservation and use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The importance of this problem, including the necessity of establishing a relevant international legal instrument, were pointed out in "The Future We Want," the outcome document from Rio+20 in 2012.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a legally binding instrument, and in 2016, a preliminary committee commenced work on the drafting of that instrument. An intergovernmental conference on this issue is to be convened by the United Nations by 2018.

By creating a forum for international discussion on seamount biodiversity, hydrothermal biodiversity, waters supporting cold-water coral communities, and other biologically and ecologically important waters, our Institute aims to lead international discussion on the formulation of specific recommendations, etc.


The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015 also set out specific measures and goals regarding BBNJ, such as sustainable conservation and management of marine and coastal ecosystems, demarcation of marine protected areas, and regulation of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Studies initiated in fiscal year 2015 aim to develop a research plan on the important relevant issues, by performing a survey of discussions of these issues in Japan and overseas, and determining what specific research and initiatives are required in relation to BBNJ.