The high seas make up about two-thirds of the world’s ocean. These vast expanses of water are so far from shore that they fall outside the jurisdiction of any country.
While early explorers once thought of these areas as essentially barren, thanks to research over recent decades, we now know that the high seas hold some of the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on Earth. They support abundant fisheries, provide important migratory routes for whales and sharks, and brim with deep-water corals and other unique marine life.
These areas beyond national jurisdiction are rich in resources but scarce in oversight. A patchwork of rules and regulations provides little in the way of conservation safeguards to protect the greater marine ecosystem from growing commercial activities such as fishing, oil and gas exploration, and deep sea mining.
The development of marine protected areas and reserves—the equivalent of national parks at sea—would be a good first step toward providing protection. Unfortunately, the world lacks an international legal instrument to establish such areas in high seas waters. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to protect ocean life on the high seas was launched to help change that.
Our WorkView All
After more than a decade of talks, the United Nations has the opportunity to move forward with a new international treaty that would protect marine biodiversity on the high seas. These ocean areas, which lie beyond the governance of any one country, are critical to achieving the levels of marine protection that scientists say are necessary to preserve vital and sensitive ecosystems, especially in... Read More
Three-quarters of our planet is covered with water—and it’s this water that sustains life. But our liquid planet, home to half of the world’s known creatures and plants, is facing multiple threats, such as overfishing and commercial development. That’s why leading scientists say that 30 percent of our oceans should be protected. Host Dan LeDuc explores why this 30 percent data point is important... Read More
The ocean absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere—the carbon-sink effect that has caused the ocean to become 30 percent more acidic over the past 200 years. Further, more than 90 percent of global warming over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Read More