The Deepest of Ironies: Genetic Resources, Marine Scientific Research, and the Area

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  • 1 Legal Officer (Biological Diversity), Environmental Law Centre, IUCN-The World Conservation Union

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  • Since this paper was submitted for publication, it has been distributed for com- ment and discussion at the first meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Techni- cal, and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Paris, 4-8 September 1995) and at the second meeting of the convention's Conference of Parties. 2. See generally "Examination of the Question of the Reservation Exclusively for Peaceful Purposes of the Sea-bed and the Ocean Floor, and the Subsoil Thereof, Underlying the High Seas beyond the Limits of Present National Jurisdiction, and the Use of Their Resources in the Interests of Mankind," UN document GAOR A/ C.1/PV.1515 (1967) (Pardo).

  • 3. It is estimated that US$650 million was spent on seabed-mining research and development in the 1960s and 1970s; $100 million was spent annually in the 1980s on exploration, research and development, and human resources development (Inter- national Ocean Institute and Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee, Alternative Cost-Effective Models for Pioneer Cooperation in Deep Sea-bed Exploration, Technology Devel- opment, and Training [1989], p. 567; Elisabeth Mann Borgese, "A Response to Dr. Artemy A. Saguirian," in Freedom for the Seas in the 21 st Century: Ocean Governance and Environmental Harmony, ed. Jon M. Van Dyke, Durwood Zaelke, and Grant Hewison [Washington, D.C: Island Press, 1991], pp. 388, 390). 4. Lee A. Kimball, "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Frame- work for Marine Conservation," in IUCN-The World Conservation Union, The Law of the Sea: Priorities and Responsibilities in Implementing the Convention (Gland, Switzer- land; IUCN-The World Conservation Union, 1995), pp. 1, 68. 5. William J. Broad, "Hot Bugs, Minerals, and Other Deep-Sea Riches," Interna- tional Herald Tribune, 18 November 1993, p. 10. 6. Some of the facts presented and arguments made in this paper could be extended to the genetic resources found in the water column of the high seas.

  • 7. Bruce H. Robinson, "Light in the Ocean's Midwaters," Scientific American, July 1995, p. 48. 8. Center for Marine Conservation, World Conservation Union, World Wildlife Fund, United Nations Environment Programme, and World Bank, Global Marine Bio- logical Diversity: A Strategy for Building Conservation into Decision Making, ed. Elliot A. Norse (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1993), p. 7, citing Frederick J. Grassle and Nancy J. Maciolek, "Deep-Sea Species Richness: Regional and Local Diversity Esti- mates from Quantitative Bottom Samples," Americans Naturalist 139 (1992): 313. 9. Holger W. Jannasch, "Deep-Sea Hot Vents as Sources of Biotechnologically Relevant Microorganisms," paper presented to the International Marine Biotechnol- ogy Conference, Tronso, Norway, 1994. 10. Michael D. Lemonick, "The Last Frontier," Time (International ed.), 14 Au- gust 1995, pp. 36, 44. 11. Craig R. Smith, "Whale Falls: Chemosynthesis on the Deep Seafloor," Oceanus (Fall 1992): 74. 12. Holger W. Jannasch, Life at Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents, Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskabs Forhandlinger (Trondheim, Norway: Tapir Forlag, 1988), pp. 75-76.

  • 13. Ibid., p. 76. 14. International Marine Biodiversity Development Corporation, "1995-2006 Deep Ocean and Atmospheric Research and Development Program: Geological and Biological Research," Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 1994, p. 8. 15. Smith (n. 11 above), p. 74. 16. "Deep-Sea Shrimps See the Light," New Scientist, 26 November 1994, p. 19. 17. Jannasch, Life at Deep-Sea Vents (n. 12 above), p. 76. 18. Ibid.

  • 19. Ibid. 20. Broad (n. 5 above), p. 10. 21. "Underwater Volcanos: Vasty Deeps," Economist, 3 September 1994, p. 83. 22. Carl Franklin, " 'Black Smokers' Multiply on Ocean Floor," New Scientist, 22 October 1994, p. 20. 23. Jannasch, "Deep-Sea Hot Vents" (n. 9 above), p. 6; Smith (n. 11 above), p. 77; Center for Marine Conservation (n. 8 above), p. 7. 24. Jannasch, "Deep-Sea Hot Vents" (n. 9 above), p. 6. 25. Franklin (n. 22 above), p. 20. 26. William T. Burke, "State Practice, New Ocean Uses, and Ocean Governance under UNCLOS," paper presented to the 28th meeting of the Law of the Sea Institute, Honolulu, 11-14 July 1994, p. 13. 27. Telephone interview with William T. Burke, University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, August 1995. 28. Lemonick (n. 10 above), p. 40.

  • 29. Center for Marine Conservation (n. 8 above), p. 7, citing Verena Tunnicliffe, "The Biology of Hydrothermal Vents: Ecology and Evolution," Oceanography and Ma- rine Biology Annual Review 29 (1991): 319. 30. Ibid. 31. Telephone interview with Holger W. Jannasch, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, July 1995. 32. Jannasch, "Deep-Sea Hot Vents" (n. 9 above), p. 3. 33. Jannasch, Life at Deep-Sea Vents (n. 12 above), p. 85. 34. Frederick Shaw Meyers, "Superbugs in Waiting: Some Cautionary Tales," Science, 3 January 1992, p. 29.

  • 35. J. C. Gottschal and R. A. Prins, "Thermophiles: A Life at Elevated Tempera- tures," Tree 6 (1991): 157, 158. 36. Ibid., p. 158. 37. Interview with Jannasch (n. 31 above). 38. "Underwater Volcanos" (n. 21 above). 39. Interview with Jannasch (n. 31 above). 40. Burke (n. 26 above), p. 14; Broad (n. 5 above), p. 10. 41. Burke (n. 26 above), p. 14. While it is unclear how this figure was arrived at, one example demonstrates the commercial potential of thermophilic bacteria. The patents for an enzyme from a thermophilic bacterium isolated in 1965 from a geyser in Yellowstone National Park (in the United States), and used in the polymerase chain reaction developed in the late 1980s, were recently sold for more than $300 million. The license brings in millions of dollars annually to Hoffmann-LaRoche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company (Michael Milstein, "Yellowstone Managers Eye Profits from Hot Microbes," Scierece, 29 April 1994, p. 655). 42. Telephone interview with A. A. Cayer, President, International Marine Bio- diversity Development Corporation, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, May 1995; Franklin (n.

  • 22 above); see also Rita R. Colwell and Jack R. Greer, "Biotechnology and the Sea," Ocean Developneent and International Law 17 (1986): 163, 165, marine biotechnology provides access to an untapped gene pool for minerals transport and metals concen- tration. 43. See generally Anne Simon Moffat, "Microbial Mining Boosts the Environ- ment, Bottom Line," Science, 6 May 1994, pp. 778, 779. 44. See generally Faye Flam, "Chemical Prospectors Scour the Seas for Promis- ing Drugs," Science, 25 November 1994, p. 1324. 45. Justin Mullins, "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," New Scientist, 25 February 1995, p. 26; Frederick Shaw Meyers and Alun Anderson, "Microbes from 20,000 Feet under the Sea," Science, 3 January 1992, p. 28; International Ocean Institute and Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (n. 3 above), p. 572. 46. Mullins (n. 45 above), p. 26.

  • 47. Ibid., pp. 26, 29. 48. Jannasch, "Deep-Sea Hot Vents" (n. 9 above), p. 88. 49. Interview with Jannasch (n. 31 above).

  • 50. Ibid. 51. Shaw Meyers and Anderson (n. 45 above), p. 29. 52. Ibid., p. 28. 53. Mullins (n. 45 above), p. 26. 54. Center for Marine Conservation (n. 8 above), p. 199. 55. Shaw Meyers and Anderson (n. 45 above), p. 29.

  • 56. Convention on Biological Diversity, International Legal Materials 31 (1992): 822. 57. Genetic resources are genetic material of actual or potential value; genetic material is any material of plant, animal, microbial, or other origin containing func- tional units of heredity (ibid., Art. 2). 58. See generally Lyle Glowka, Françoise Burcheme-Guilmin, and Hugh Synge, A G2cide to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN-The World Conservation Union, 1994), p. 76.

  • 59. See United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UN document A/Conf./62/122, with corrigenda, 1982. Art. 237 (obligations under other conventions on the protection and preservation of the marine environment) and Art. 311 (relation to other conventions and international agreements). 60. Glowka et al. (n. 58 above), p. 27.

  • 61. These are the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone (Ge- neva 1958), the Convention on the High Sea (Geneva 1958), the Convention on Fish- ing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Sea (Geneva 1958), and the Convention on the Continental Shelf (Geneva 1958). 62. M. W. Zacher and James G. McConnell, "Down to the Sea with Stakes: The Evolving Law of the Sea and the Future of the Deep Seabed Regime," Ocean Develop- meant and Interreational Law 21 (1990): 71, 73.

  • 63. Sedentary species are living organisms "which, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the sea-bed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the sea-bed or sub-soil" (Art. 77[4]). 64. General Assembly Resolution 263, UN document GAOR A/Res/48/263 (1994). 65. Kimball (n. 4 above), p. 14.

  • 66. Burke (n. 26 above), p. 16.

  • 67. Shaw Meyers and Anderson (n. 45 above), p. 28.

  • 68. Mark Orlove, "Spaced Out: The World Looks for a Way into Outer Space," Connecticut Journal of International Law 4 (1989): 602-3 n. 20.

  • 69. Alfred H. A. Soons, Marine Scientific Research and the Law of the Sea (Deventer, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1982), pp. 6, 242-43.

  • 70. Carlos M. Correa, "Sovereign and Property Rights over Plant Genetic Re-

  • sources," study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for the first extraordinary Session of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, Rome, 7-11 November 1994, p. 13. 71. General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Multilateral Trade Negotiations (Uruguay Round), Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations, Annex 1 C, 15 December 1993. For an overview of the TRIPs agreement, see Carlos M. Correa, "The GATT Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellec- tual Property Rights: New Standards for Patent Protection," European Intellectual Prop- erty Review 8 (1994): 81.

  • 72. The observation that the deep ocean floor is a biological desert is beginning to fall into disfavor; see, for example, P. John D. Lambshead, "Recent Developments in Marine Benthic Biodiversity Research," Océanis 19 (1993): p. 5 (estimating 107 benthic macrofaunal species and 108 benthic meiofaunal species [such as marine nem- atodes] may exist on or in deep-sea sediments both within and outside areas of national jurisdiction); William J. Board, "The World's Deep Cold Sea Floors Harbor a Riotous Diversity of Life," New York Times, 17 October 1995, p. Cl; Frank Pearce, "Rockall Mud Richer than Rainforest," New Scientist, 16 September 1995, p. 8. 73. Jannasch, "Deep-Sea Hot Vents" (n. 9 above), p. 2. 74. Zacher and McConnell (n. 62 above), p. 81.

  • 75. Ibid. 76. Burke (n. 26 above), pp. 16, 17. 77. General Assembly Resolution 28, UN document GAOR A/Res/49/28 (1994); see Moritaka Hayashi, "The Role of the Secretary-General under the Law of the Sea Convention and the Part XI Agreement," International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 10 (1995): 157, 158.

  • 78. General Assembly Resolution 28 (n. 76 above).

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