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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All those with a stake in protecting the global ocean will be closely watching the next meeting of a U.N. Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) that is charged with developing recommendations for an international treaty to safeguard sea life in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the high seas. The PrepCom session convenes March 27 to April 7 in New York. Read More
The high seas—the waters beyond the jurisdiction of any government—make up 64 percent of the world’s ocean, yet only a patchwork of mechanisms, and few safeguards, exist to manage the ocean resources in these areas. Read More
The Pacific islands spread across a vast swath of ocean, with few airports and many time zones between them, but they have one critical thing in common: dependence on the ocean and the environment for economic independence and food security. Read More