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Marine Genetic Resources in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction: Issues with, in and outside of UNCLOS

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The negotiations for a new international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS, on marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, has brought to the fore interesting questions over the applicable regime for marine genetic resources, including issues of benefit sharing. This article examines the different principles that have been suggested as applying to marine genetic resources, as well as suggestions of middle-of-the-way approaches. The freedom of the high seas, common heritage of mankind, common concern of humankind, Part xiii of UNCLOS on marine scientific research, and the Nagoya Protocol, are reflected on in turn. Brief reflections are also offered on the matter of intellectual property rights. This article recognizes the need for coherence with the existing UNCLOS regimes that apply to the areas beyond national jurisdiction, whilst taking into account the specific characteristics of marine genetic resources. There is potential utility in distilling means by which the seemingly diametrically opposed notions in Part vii and Part xi of UNCLOS may overlap. Perhaps the best point of entry for successful navigation of the issues is through the regime for marine scientific research, appropriately informed by other experiences, other existing agreements, and related regimes. Ultimately, the new implementing agreement, like its parent treaty (UNCLOS), will need to maintain a balance of interests.


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