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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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
When Pope Francis released his encyclical about environmental protections in May, many observers focused on his call to combat climate change as part of a moral need to conserve our “common home.” But his message wasn’t just about stopping global warming and protecting the land: Deep in the text, he also advocates for protecting the high seas through a stronger system of ocean... Read More
After more than two years of discussion and debate, on Aug. 2, 2015, the United Nations’ 193 Member States reached agreement on a global outcome document for sustainable development to be adopted Sept. 25-27 at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York. Read More