The High Seas of Switzerland

IUCN WCPA High Seas Specialist Group Research Fellow

This summer I am working with the future implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the high seas. So ~ naturally ~ I found myself up in the Swiss Alps.

I was asked to attend a workshop on the high seas at the IUCN Headquarters in Switzerland and jumped at the opportunity. After a cancelled flight and a bout of jet lag, I rode the SBB train from Nyon to Gland and found myself in a room amongst an international group of high seas experts and specialists. The workshop was centered on area-based management tools in areas beyond national jurisdiction (or ABMT in ABNJ). For two days, we discussed the joint proposal process for future ABMTs, how to ensure the engagement of all stakeholders in these proposals, and the eventual implementation of ABMTs in ABNJ. I quickly picked up the jargon, such as IFBs standing for “institutions, frameworks, and bodies,” and pretty soon I was speaking a vegetable soup of acronyms with the rest of the attendees.

Our workshop took place at the Holcim Think Tank on the top floor of IUCN HQ.
The conference room had beautiful views of the French Alps beyond Lake Geneva and a constant supply of coffee to keep everyone awake amidst the jet lag.

I was able to contribute to the workshop by working with the IUCN team as a notetaker for the workshop report they will be publishing. After engaging with presentations in the main room, we would break out into two different discussion groups to put our heads together answering key questions. For example, we debated on how the High Seas (BBNJ) Treaty should interact with other IFBs and if it should use its own language for ABMTs or adopt the language of other frameworks. After our discussions, I quickly condensed the notes and got the chance to present them to the larger group. Not only did I learn an exponential amount on the future landscape of the high seas when it comes to protected areas, but I was able to meet incredible people who I hope to work alongside in the future.

I presented alongside my colleague, Guillermo, in the High Seas Specialist Group.
We had our final dinner on the IUCN patio – Here I am with Aurelie and Clemente who work with the IUCN.

After the workshop ended, I got to travel around Switzerland for a bit of hiking and spent the night in different mountain huts (see below for some very Swiss photos). Since coming back, I have started interviewing managers of large-scale MPAs for my report and am headed to Oahu soon to meet some of these experts in person. I am incredibly grateful to have had this experience at IUCN in Switzerland and am looking forward to this next phase of interviews!

The first mountain hut I stayed in, nestled under a glacier outside of Grindelwald.
The quintessential Swiss photo featuring a cow with a swinging bell, little yellow flowers, and incredibly stunning views.
The second mountain hut I spent the night at, all the way at the top of Alpstein in the Appenzell Alps.

Leave a Reply