Identifying the Spratly Seamounts and Their Coral Reefs as an Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area
14 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2018
Date Written: July 4, 2018
This paper investigates whether the Spratly seamounts and their coral reefs which are located in the southern part of the SCS basin could meet the seven scientific criteria for identification as an Ecologically or Biologically Sensitive Area (EBSA) under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Guidance developed for the application of the EBSA criteria and past examples of seamounts identified as EBSAs in other oceans and seas are applied to existing scientific data on the Spratly seamounts to examine which of the criteria are met and to identify the data gaps. The analysis shows that the Spratly seamounts meet six of the seven criteria. Of critical importance to this ecological importance of the Spratly seamounts at regional level is the connectivity it provides across the SCS, between different larval recruitment areas along the coastline of the SCS and in other isolated reefs in the northern part of the SCS as well as into the Sulu Sea. Prospects for the identification of the Spratlys seamounts as an EBSA are also discussed from an international law and regional policy perspectives. The discussion highlights that under international law, identification of an area as meeting the EBSA criteria does not prejudice the sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction of coastal States, or the rights of other States under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Such identification is therefore without prejudice to any sovereignty or maritime dispute and creates an opportunity for cooperation and the adoption of confidence building measures.
Keywords: Marine Environment, Sensitive Areas, EBSAs, Ecological Criteria, Marine Biodiversity, South China Sea, Spratly Seamounts
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