Hastings Environmental Law Journal


Erin Barlow


The United Nations is currently drafting an international legally binding agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the High Seas (“Agreement”). The Agreement is timely because it is painfully apparent that biodiversity across the globe is rapidly declining. One of the key strategies for species protection and rehabilitation that the Agreement outlines is the creation of marine protected areas (“MPAs”). The Agreement defines a MPA as a geographically defined area designated and managed to achieve specific long-term biodiversity conservation and sustainable use objectives and provide higher protection than the surrounding areas. Further, the Agreement outlines a procedure for identifying areas for MPAs, consultation requirements, implementation, monitoring, and review. Yet, nowhere in the Agreement is there an open concession of how climate change could radically alter the efficacy of MPAs over time – one of the major climate impacts is that marine biodiversity is migrating to unprecedented areas due to significant changes in ocean conditions. In this paper, I argue that dynamic ocean management is the best approach for the Agreement to ensure that marine biodiversity is protected despite its movement to new areas.