Ocean Policy

Governance of the High Seas

The Study Group on Governance of the High Seas is a private research group of experts from government, industry, and academia, which is jointly organized by the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs and OPRI (co-chaired by former Japanese Foreign Minister Junko Kawaguchi, and OPRI President Hiroshi Terashima).

The foundation of the study group was prompted by the establishment in spring 2013 of the Global Ocean Commission, in which experts from around the world come together to address the problems that the world is currently facing relating to the high seas, and its attendance by Ms. Junko Kawaguchi--who (at the time) was a member of the House of Councilors --as the representative from Japan. The Commission was co-chaired by former Costa Rican President Figueres, South African Cabinet Minister Manuel, and former UK Foreign Secretary Miliband (Secretariat: Somerville College, the University of Oxford).

Acknowledging that, up to that time, there had been little discussion in Japan regarding the high seas, a consensus, focused around Ms. Kawaguchi, took shape that this was an opportunity to commence research--paying particular attention to the high seas--on the current state of affairs and problems relating to the ocean, research which should be in keeping with the latest scientific findings and with national and international trends.

From the time of the first workshop on May 28, 2013, ocean experts in various fields participated in nine workshops organized by the study group over the period up to April 2014, with active discussions being conducted following presentations given by experts in each of those fields. Based on their discussions, a structure for a proposal document was determined, and authoring of draft recommendations was accordingly allocated amongst the members. The co-chairs compiled the drafts into a policy recommendation entitled Our High Seas for a Prosperous World: Its Governance for Improved Conservation and Utilization.

A summary of the policy recommendation is presented below.

First, specific measures are recommended for marine biodiversity, marine genetic resources, ocean warming and acidification, fishery resources, and deep-water mineral resources through consideration of their importance, current state, and the challenges involved. Next, a discussion is given of progress from the time of the Earth Summit up to Rio+20 of the action plan for comprehensive management and sustainable development of the oceans, together with a discussion of efforts toward better governance of the high seas under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Following this, Japanese ocean policy--based on the Basic Act and Basic Plan on Ocean Policy--is outlined, with particular focus on how it relates to governance of the high seas. Next, focusing on how to address the weakness of governance with respect to conservation and utilization of the high seas, the policies that are recommended to Japan and the international community are organized and presented as follows.

Japan's Further Initiatives — Approach and System —

1. The four principles underlying initiatives

Acknowledging rights and obligations relating to the high seas/Precautionary approach/Integrated management and ecosystem oriented approach/Adaptive management

2. Specific initiatives (general description)

Establishment of a marine version of IPCC/Building of a high-level framework for international organizations and governments (e.g., high-level intergovernmental forum relating to the oceans)/Initiative for sustainability of the seas in East Asia/Strengthened efforts by Japan to tackle issues relating to the high seas (e.g., establishment of a high sea ministerial team in the Headquarters for Ocean Policy) /Dissemination of information on issues involving the oceans/Assistance to developing countries/Human resource development/Promotion of education regarding the oceans

3. Specific initiatives (detailed description)

Ocean acidification (e.g., establishment of a research consortium, breeding of hermatypic coral and other adaptive measures, CCS, and research and development of new technologies to achieve negative emissions)/Fisheries (e.g., reduction of excess fishing capacity, reduction of fishery subsidies, introduction of a fishery certificate system, and strengthening of regional fishery management organizations)/Biodiversity and genetic resources (e.g., efforts towards demarcation of marine protected areas on the high seas, proposal of an international joint research project to rank next to CoML, and discussion of international treaties relating to genetic resources on the high seas)/Cross-border marine pollution/Offshore resources, etc.

On June 13, 2014, the co-chairs and some members visited Ocean Policy Minister Ichita Yamamoto in order to submit and give an overall description of the recommendations. A corresponding press conference was given on the same day.

The Basic Act on Ocean Policy stipulates in Article 7 that, "promotion of measures regarding the oceans shall be executed under international partnership, with the object of undertaking a leading role in the formation and development of an international system of order." To enable Japan to play such a leading role in tackling issues relating to the high seas, the study group is committed to carrying out a robust program of activities to stimulate discussion that focuses on this topic. In addition, on June 26, 2015, the Second Study Group on Governance of the High Seas was set up, and the first workshop held. Based on the discussions of the first study group, it was agreed to continue research relevant to the current international situation, and the group began immediate discussion on issues such as BBNJ.