It is important to realise that ABNJ and national waters (or Exclusive Economic Zones) are biologically and ecologically connected through migratory and circulatory connectivity. This ecological connectivity is essential to healthy marine ecosystems across the globe. For example, regions such as upwelling sites or seamounts have an especially high biological productivity and are important to restock marine resources in other marine areas. Ecological connectivity also means that disturbances to marine biological diversity are not contained but have effects far beyond the immediate area of impact. For example, the negative effects of overfishing or habitat degradation in ABNJ will also impact fisheries in coastal zones, and vice versa. The downstream effects of activities in ABNJ are especially critical for a range of developing countries, where large parts of the population rely on marine resources not only for revenue, but also for food security. Ecological connectivity between ABNJ and EEZs must be recognised in governance approaches and there is an urgent demand to rethink how to effectively conserve and sustainably manage the ocean as a whole.
There is no justification for delaying coordinated and cross-sectoral policy action. There is only one ocean and it needs to be protected and managed as a whole to respond to the cumulative pressures stemming from human activities, both on land and at sea. Ecological connectivity demands transboundary, multi-level and cross-sectoral governance approaches for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, including in ABNJ, based on ecologically defined management units rather than jurisdictional boundaries. This means that States must not only cooperate with their neighbouring States but extend their actions across the EEZ-ABNJ jurisdictional divide. There is also urgency to further strengthen and apply multilateral instruments, e.g. Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and ensure that responsible and sustainable practices in ABNJ are enforced. There is a pressing need for all States to insist that their rights and futures are not compromised by the actions of others, but to do so, they must become actively engaged in driving sustainable, responsible practices in ABNJ, at all relevant fora.