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The Protection and Sustainable Exploitation of Genetic Resources of the High Seas from the European Union's Perspective

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This paper examines how marine biodiversity and genetic resources in the high seas can be protected and whether their exploitation should be regulated. As to their protection, it raises the question whether existing sectoral approaches should continue or to create a new mechanism based on an integrated approach. In accordance with the European Union's position, the latter is favoured, while acknowledging that several States still have reservations and question the need for new legal instruments. Concerning the necessity of a regulatory scheme governing their exploitation, existing mechanisms under the Law of the Sea Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity are examined and it is concluded that they are not applicable or do not provide for specific rules on this issue. It is further presumed that the resulting absence of a clear framework is acceptable because the potential of commercial exploitation is still uncertain, so that there will only be scientific research without vital negative impact on the marine environment in the near future. It is suggested that the international community should rather focus on defining the legal status of genetic resources and clarifying whether they belong to the common heritage of mankind and require a benefit-sharing system, as proposed by developing countries.

Affiliations: 1: Head, Unit for International Policy and Law of the Sea, Direction Générale Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, European Commission


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