IUCN and AI2 to provide AI technology at no cost to fast-track implementation of newly signed UN High Seas Treaty
The partnership will support the Global South with the development, planning and management of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the high seas.
New York, USA, 21 September 2023 (IUCN) – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Allen Institute for AI (AI2) are partnering to equip governmental and non-governmental organisations with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to protect our oceans. Following the
The remoteness and vastness of the high seas present a unique challenge for countries planning to establish and monitor marine protected areas (MPAs) under the BBNJ Agreement – also known as the UN High Seas Treaty. Together, IUCN, a global authority on conservation with over 1,400 member organisations, and AI2, a non-profit research institute building AI for the common good, will give developing countries interested in carrying out the Treaty access to AI2’s monitoring and analysis software, Skylight, at no cost, ensuring equitable implementation of the High Seas Treaty in the Global South and beyond.
Skylight, which is used by over 300 organisations in nearly 70 countries, combines satellite technology and AI to deliver automated monitoring and detection capabilities to assist in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. With the ability to process and analyse millions of data points daily, the platform also provides policymakers and MPA managers with near real-time and historical intelligence to inform conservation actions.
“The high seas account for nearly two-thirds of the global ocean. Without more protection and better enforcement of these areas, the ocean’s resilience to climate change and its capacity to provide vital resources for human survival is at risk,” said Minna Epps, Head of IUCN’s Ocean Team.
“AI2 and IUCN will work at the technology and policy nexus, deploying cutting-edge technology and world-class policy expertise to promote early BBNJ Treaty implementation. AI2’s Skylight platform is not only a powerful tool, but it can also help promote equity in terms of fair and equal access to data and information for the effective management of marine protected areas,” she added.
“AI will be an important part of the solution required to effectively monitor and manage high seas and marine protected areas,” said Ted Schmitt, Senior Director of Skylight at (AI2). “By combining powerful AI applications, including computer vision and machine learning, with remote satellite data, we will empower developing countries with an essential intelligence and analysis tool needed to safeguard these crucial areas for the long term.”
“Today, Skylight is accelerating the way organisations use AI to tackle the crisis of IUU fishing, which causes an estimated USD 23.5 billion annually in economic losses. Rolling out Skylight will help advance how countries – and marine protected area planners and managers – make data-driven decisions, which will be critical to delivering on the promise of the new High Seas Treaty,” stated Schmitt.
The BBNJ Agreement, which has been in the making for almost two decades, provides a global framework for protecting marine areas and species, assessing the impact of human activities, providing technology transfer and capacity building, and ensuring the equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources.
Skylight will help strengthen the implementation of the treaty, which also specifically calls for the “development and transfer of marine technology, including technological tools for effective monitoring, control, and surveillance of activities,” among other actions.
The BBNJ Agreement was opened for signature on 20 September 2023, at the United Nations Headquarters – starting the process for nations to ratify it into their own laws. At least 60 UN Member States must ratify the treaty for it to come into force.