Protecting Ocean Life on the High Seas

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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 Work

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  • Our Ocean

    This collection of Pew resources covers a range of ocean issues. Among the topics are efforts to end illegal fishing; to encourage creation of large, fully protected marine reserves around the world, including international waters; and to improve the international management of tuna species. Read More

  • High Seas Protections Must Cover Critical Role of Ecosystems

    The science is clear: The ocean is suffering from a suite of human-caused impacts, and action is needed soon to reverse that decline and ensure the protection of marine biodiversity in areas that have yet to be exploited. Read More

  • 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress

    The Chilean government will host the Fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4) in La Serena and Coquimbo, Sept. 4-8, 2017. The congress will be followed by a high-level meeting of ministers, influential ocean policy advocates, and decision-makers in Valparaiso on Sept. 9. Over the course of the week, leaders, government officials, representatives of local communities,... Read More

High Seas Need Protection

High Seas

What Are the High Seas?

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Media Contact

Leah Weiser

Officer, Communications