Editor’s note: The content on this page was published before June 2023, when the United Nations adopted a legally binding treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, sometimes referred to as the high seas treaty.
Making up roughly two-thirds of the ocean and covering nearly half of the planet’s surface, the high seas support abundant fisheries, serve as migratory routes for whales and sharks, and harbor remarkable ecosystems such as deep-water corals and other majestic marine life.
Because the ocean is an interconnected system, harmful activities on the high seas can also have a negative impact on domestic conservation efforts and livelihoods. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, effective and equitable conservation of at least 30% of the global ocean can help to safeguard the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale.
The high seas, which are beyond the borders of any nation, represent about two-thirds of the world’s ocean, but only about 1% of these waters are protected. International waters belong to everyone, yet there currently is no comprehensive legal mechanism in place to protect the high seas and the marine life that makes its home there.
Governments must take bold and urgent action toward the successful conclusion this year of negotiations at the United Nations on a high seas treaty. The articles below share the perspectives of a wide range of global voices—from youth leaders to influential government decision-makers—and make the case for an ambitious agreement that will allow for the establishment of marine protected areas on the high seas.