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.
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When members of a United Nations Preparatory Committee meet for the first time in March 2016, they will begin crafting recommendations on elements of a new, legally binding instrument to conserve and sustainably use the high seas—marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, which make up 64 percent of the world's ocean and contain a wealth of biodiversity. Read More
From majestic shark species to charismatic whales to little-understood creatures of the deep, the high seas are home to some of the ocean’s most interesting and valuable life. But for all of the beauty and wonder they hold, the high seas are highly vulnerable. The rules and regulations that should protect them are a patchwork inadequate to the task. This ocean ecosystem is at risk of... Read More