ABNJ – Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), commonly called the high seas, are those areas of ocean for which no one nation has sole responsibility for management. In all, these make up 40 percent of the surface of our planet, comprising 64 percent of the surface of the oceans and nearly 95 percent of its volume.” The ABNJ includes the water column and seabed of the high seas. ABNJs are subject to threats from human activities in multiple sectors including deep-sea mining. UNCLOS has created a legal regime for areas beyond national jurisdiction that is regulated by ISA (see definitions of UNCLOS and ISA). A key component of the rules UNCLOS stipulates is the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction is the common heritage of mankind: all mankind must benefit from its development. UNCLOS has therefore set out responsibilities to share the benefits of deep seabed exploration and exploitation. The ISA manages these responsibilities. At the same time, UNCLOS wants to ensure the effective protection from the harmful effects of mining operations. Sustainable management is extremely challenging in ABNJs, as these areas are usually very far from coastlines and very limited comprehensive legal instruments and coherent governance exists.The difficulties associated with managing ANBJs can be related to the difficulties of managing any other internationally shared resource system, as encompassed by the Tragedy of the Commons. The Tragedy of the Commons states that within in a shared-resource system individual actors exploit the system, acting independently according to their own self-interest.