Governing the High Seas : effective institutional arrangements for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction.

  • James Luger

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Forming almost two-thirds of the global ocean, the High Seas and seabed areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) support some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. However, these vital areas are increasingly under threat from human and climate change-induced pressures. The current governance regime related to the conservation of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is fragmented (in terms of institutional mandates, powers and resources) and characterised by significant gaps (in terms of species and geographical coverage).
In response, the United Nations has negotiated an internationally legally binding instrument (ILBI) to protect the High Seas. A key aspect of the draft agreement is that that new instrument should “not undermine” existing bodies, instruments and frameworks, which raises key questions relating to interplay between the new ILBI and existing bodies.

My research seeks to understand how the agreement can be effectively operationalised by analysing two related strands:

(1) The need for the agreement to be effectively implemented by existing institutions, and
(2) Due to the migratory nature of BBNJ and governance gaps, the need for existing institutions to work together effectively.

I argue under (1) that four candidate conditions are likely to be important for implementation and deploy Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to identify one condition necessary for successful implementation (multi-party coordination) and three conditions (access to/management of data, multi-party coordination and adaptive management) which are sufficient to lead to a successful outcome.
Under (2) a case study of the Northern Atlantic institutional regime is used to characterise and help explain the forces and factors influencing institutional interplay.
Taken together, the two parts to the research generate insights into effective institutional arrangements for the future governance of BBNJ.
Date of Award14 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorTim Stojanovic (Supervisor)


  • BBNJ
  • Effectiveness
  • Institutional effectiveness
  • High Seas governance

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  • Full text open

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