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.
white branched octocoral
white branched octocoral
Report

Creating the First Generation of High Seas Protected Areas

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Report

Although there is much still to discover, scientists have sufficient data and research to begin mapping and modeling hot spots of biodiversity on the high seas. This report identifies some of the special places that could benefit from protections established under a new high seas treaty.

High Seas
High Seas
Article

High Seas Treaty Advances, Could Protect Last Global Common

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Article

From August 19 to 30, an intergovernmental conference will convene at the United Nations in New York to continue negotiations toward a treaty to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the high seas—the two-thirds of the world’s ocean beyond the jurisdiction of any country.

Data Visualization

High Stakes on the High Seas

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Data Visualization

The high seas, ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction, fall outside countries’ exclusive economic zones.

Wave crashing
Wave crashing

The Drive to Protect 30% of the Ocean by 2030

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Effective marine conservation can help people and nature, conserving critical marine habitat where species may thrive, and significantly boost the global economy, for example by fostering healthy and sustainable fisheries. Pew is working with partners to ensure that the international community builds on this momentum and support to establish and sustain protections to conserve biodiversity in the most important ocean environments.

Our Work

High Seas Treaty Would Bring Needed Protection
High Seas Whiteboard
What Are the High Seas?
High Seas
High Seas: U.N. Has One Chance To Get it Right