What can OBIS do for a new UN Treaty on marine biodiversity in the open ocean?
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA resolution 69/292 on 19 June 2015) established a Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) on the development of a new legally-binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to conserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Four BBNJ PrepCom meetings are organized at the UN in New York in 2016-2017. The third PrepCom meeting is taking place now (27 March - 7 April 2017).
Also the 49th Executive Council of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO (in June 2016) established an Intersessional Working Group (IWG) on the IOC relevant issues related to the PrepCom with the tasks to examine the possible contribution of the IOC in relation to BBNJ, particularly in areas related to marine scientific research, capacity development and transfer of marine technology, as well as data and information management, with a view to informing the participation of the IOC representative in the BBNJ process. The IWG has representatives from 25 Member States. There is general agreement in the IWG that data management and data exchange constitute one of the areas of IOC’s potential contribution to BBNJ. The IWG believes IODE and OBIS are regarded to be uniquely positioned and the creation of new mechanisms or structures with similar functions and roles should be avoided.
OBIS can be the data sharing platform and clearing house mechanism dealing with the issues of traceability, provenance and application of data in ABNJ. A federated, interoperable system for cruise information with unique persistent identifiers would benefit BBNJ and would allow the integration of cruise information with the actual sample data in OBIS. Using OBIS in a legal context will require (1) increased scrutiny of data through flagging data as appropriate or inappropriate for specific uses in consultation with legal experts and (2) the communication of uncertainty in ways consumable by non-scientist users.
More information on BBNJ PrepCom-3 can be found at: http://www.un.org/depts/los/biodiversity/prepcom.htm.