seagulls flying above rough waters

Project

Protecting Ocean Life on the High Seas

Protecting Ocean Life on the High Seas
The high seas make up about two-thirds of the world’s ocean, covering the vast expanses beyond the jurisdiction of any country.

Research has shown that the high seas hold some of the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on Earth, supporting abundant fisheries, providing migratory routes for whales and sharks, and harboring remarkable ecosystems such as deep-water corals and other majestic marine life.

But the high seas lack consistent and effective oversight. A patchwork of rules and regulations provides little to protect marine life from commercial activities such as fishing, oil and gas exploration, and deep-sea mining, all of which are expanding.

The designation of marine protected areas and reserves—the equivalent of national parks at sea—would be a good first step toward providing the needed protection. In an area that is part of the global commons, the challenge starts with establishing an international legal instrument to create high seas reserves.

Pew is working to meet that challenge, primarily though the United Nations, which has committed to negotiate an international treaty to protect the high seas.

Project Goals
  • To work with the United Nations and member governments to finalize text for a high seas conservation treaty by the end of 2020.
  • To ensure that the treaty provides mechanisms for establishing marine protected areas and marine reserves on the high seas, as well as a process for conducting environmental impact assessments.
  • To encourage United Nations member states to identify criteria and management proposals for potential high seas protected areas.
Issue Brief

Mapping Governance Gaps on the High Seas

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Issue Brief

A patchwork of international bodies and treaties manage ocean resources and human activity in areas beyond any state’s national jurisdiction. However, these governance bodies vary greatly in terms of their mandate, which determines their geographic scope, their objective, the legally binding nature of decisions they adopt, and whether they regulate one or several activities. The following maps help to illustrate the current governance gaps on the high seas.

Issue Brief

Underwater Treasures of the High Seas

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Issue Brief

Once thought to be largely barren, the high seas are now known to be one of the planet’s largest reservoirs of biodiversity. Home to majestic whales, sharks, sea turtles, and other beloved and ecologically important species of marine life, the deep reaches of the high seas also support little-understood plants and animals as well as creatures not yet discovered.

Issue Brief

Evaluaciones de impacto ambiental en zonas de alta mar

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Issue Brief

A nivel mundial los científicos siguen realizando importantes descubrimientos sobre el alta mar y los fondos marinos en las áreas fuera de las jurisdicciones nacionales (ABNJ por sus siglas en inglés), sitios remotos que albergan una gran biodiversidad y algunas de las especies más fascinantes y valiosas del océano. Sin embargo, con la aparición de nuevas actividades que amenazan la vida de estos ecosistemas, la protección de su biodiversidad es cada vez más importante.

Issue Brief

Áreas marinas protegidas fuera de la jurisdicción nacional

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Issue Brief

Aún sabemos muy poco acerca de los complejos ecosistemas marinos en alta mar, pero hay una cosa que sabemos a ciencia cierta: en el pasado se pensaba que estas zonas eran auténticos desiertos, y ahora somos conscientes que las zonas de alta mar y los fondos marinos están rebosantes de vida.

Our Work

The High Seas: UN Has One Chance To Get This Right
What Are the High Seas?
High Seas Need Protection