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

Quick View
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

Quick View
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

Évaluations de l’impact sur l’environnement en haute mer

Quick View
Issue Brief

Sur notre planète, les scientifiques ne cessent d’effectuer d’importantes découvertes à propos de la haute mer et des profondeurs marines dans les zones situées au-delà de toute juridiction nationale (ZADJN), ces régions éloignées qui permettent la vie dans l’ensemble de l’océan et qui abritent certaines des espèces océaniques les plus fascinantes et les plus précieuses au monde. Mais il devient de plus en plus important de protéger la biodiversité de ces écosystèmes, dont le bon état est menacé par des activités nouvelles ou émergentes.

Issue Brief

Des aires marines protégées au-delà de la juridiction nationale

Quick View
Issue Brief

Bien que nous n’en sachions encore très peu sur les écosystèmes océaniques complexes au large, nous savons d’ores et déjà que la haute mer et les grands fonds océaniques, que l’on percevait autrefois comme des déserts marins stériles, foisonnent d’êtres vivants. Les monts sous-marins abritent des créatures que l’on ne retrouve nulle part ailleurs sur Terre.

Our Work

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