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 some 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
A special working group of the United Nations General Assembly will meet Jan. 20-23 in New York to decide whether to ask world leaders to launch negotiations on an agreement that could create new avenues for protecting increasingly vulnerable marine life in the high seas. Read More
Over 40 percent of commercially important fish species are caught both in coastal waters and on the high seas. As a result, overexploitation of marine life on the high seas will ultimately reduce catches along the coasts and degrade coastal food webs and ecosystems. And any harm to coastal fisheries can have significant implications for food security. Read More