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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  • Towards a Global Solution for High Seas Conservation

    In June 2015, world leaders made the extraordinary decision to develop an international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the high seas. These areas make up two-thirds of the world’s ocean but are managed by a patchwork of bodies that regulate fishing, mining, shipping, and other activities for specific... Read More

  • The Road to High Seas Conservation

    For more than a decade, the United Nations and its member States have been on a journey to address oneof the world’s most pressing environmental issues: how to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the high seas, the nearly two-thirds of the ocean that falls outside the jurisdiction ofany country. Read More

High Seas Need Protection

High Seas

What Are the High Seas?

High Seas Whiteboard

Media Contact

Leah Weiser

Senior Associate, Communications

202.540.6304