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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On June 19, 2015, members of the U.N. General Assembly gathered at the organization’s headquarters in New York to take a critical step for our planet. The General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution committing to draft a global treaty to govern and protect the high seas—the 64 percent of ocean waters that lie outside the jurisdiction of any country. Read More
On Wednesday, June 8, an unusual craft will sail up the East River off Gantry Plaza State Park, in full view of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan: The Hōkūle’a, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, will dock in New York as part of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, which began in 2013. Read More
Managing tuna fisheries successfully is a complicated task. These fish populations extend beyond man-made borders and through international waters, making regional decision-making critical to effective management. The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) has been in force since 2001 and requires countries to cooperate on the management of shared fish stocks like tuna. They typically do... Read More
The Ocean Belongs to Everyone
Why we need protections for the seas that lie in any country's jurisdiction.