The high seas make up about two-thirds of the world’s ocean, covering the vast expanses beyond the jurisdiction of any country. Research over recent decades has shown that the high seas hold some of the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on Earth, supporting abundant fisheries, providing migratory routes for whales and sharks, and harboring remarkable ecosystems such as deep-water corals and other exotic marine life.
But the high seas lack consistent and effective oversight. A patchwork of rules and regulations provides little to protect marine life from commercial activities such as fishing, oil and gas exploration, and deep-sea mining, all of which are expanding.
The designation of marine protected areas and reserves—the equivalent of national parks at sea—would be a good first step toward providing the needed protection. In an area that is part of the global commons, the challenge starts with establishing an international legal instrument to create high-seas reserves.
Pew is working to meet that challenge, primarily though the United Nations, which has committed to negotiate an international treaty to protect the high seas.
- To work with the United Nations and member governments to finalize text for a high seas conservation treaty by the end of 2020.
- To ensure that the treaty provides mechanisms for establishing marine protected areas and marine reserves on the high seas, as well as a process for conducting environmental impact assessments.
- To encourage United Nations member states to identify criteria and management proposals for potential high seas protected areas.