Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 11, pp 3015–3033 | Cite as

Role of traditional knowledge in marine bioprospecting

Review paper


The “marine world” is endowed with diverse life forms. The life under the oceans is bestowed with a unique gene pool and characteristics owing to extreme conditions such as high salt concentration and temperature variations. The marine biodiversity is an extremely rich resource for the development of a wide array of applications in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics. Various forms of traditional knowledge, including traditional medicinal knowledge, have been silently developing over the centuries, with the coastal tribes in nations across the globe. Unfortunately, marine traditional knowledge has been underestimated both commercially and legally. It has still not gained its due importance at the international platform for sustainable use and development. An attempt has been made in the present study to collate information on marine traditional knowledge based medicine. Recent trends of marine bioprospecting by various nations including India have been discussed, followed by the study of legal provisions dealing with marine bioprospecting that aim at conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. Convention of Biological Diversity, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas and World Intellectual Property Organization are the major international legal instruments that discuss the concepts of Prior Informed Consent, access and benefit sharing with regard to biopiracy and provide guidelines and limits for conducting marine scientific research.


Access and benefit sharing Patent Convention on biological diversity Marine bioprospecting Mutually agreed terms Sustainable use and development Traditional medicinal knowledge 



Access and benefit sharing


Asian Development Bank


Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome


Antarctic Specially Protected Area




Convention of Biological Diversity


Community Biodiversity Registers


Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources


Conference of Parties


Committee on Trade and Environment


Department of Biotechnology


Exclusive economic zone


Food and Drug Administration


Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources


Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore


Intellectual Property Rights


International Union for Conservation of Nature


Mutually agreed terms


National Biodiversity Authority


National Institute of Oceanography


Prior Informed Consent


Standing Committee on Patents


SmithKline Beecham


Traditional ecological knowledge


Traditional knowledge


Traditional Knowledge Digital Library


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea


University of South Pacific


World Intellectual Property Organization


World Trade Organization



We would like to express our regards and gratitude to Dr. K. D. Raju and Dr. Tapas Bandyopadhyay at the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, for their valuable suggestions during the course of the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property LawIndian Institute of Technology KharagpurKharagpurIndia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesIndian Institute of Technology DelhiDelhiIndia

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