On 19 June 2023, after almost 20 years of negotiations, the United Nations (“UN”) member states adopted a landmark treaty to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine Biodiversity of areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (the “BBNJ” treaty).
One of the cornerstones of the BBNJ treaty is the creation of a new mechanism for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from activities with respect to “marine genetic resources” (“MGRs”) and “digital sequence information” (“DSI”) from MGRs. This mechanism is groundbreaking because it will require companies to pay for the use of genetic resources beyond national jurisdiction for the first time. Until now, under the existing Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”) and its Nagoya Protocol, companies were required to make (non-)monetary contributions only for the utilization of genetic resources under national jurisdiction (e.g., from national territories, national seas and exclusive economic zones). The BBNJ creates new “Access and Benefit-Sharing” (“ABS”) obligations on MGRs from maritime areas beyond national jurisdiction (i.e., the High Seas and the Area).
Companies in sectors whose R&D depends on marine genetic resources will be required to contribute to share financial and other benefits. In this blog we focus on those provisions of the BBNJ which will have the most direct impact on companies.