A Path to Creating the First Generation of High Seas Protected Areas

Pew Research Center Tourism

A Path to Creating the First Generation of High Seas Protected Areas
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Beyond the horizon, more than 200 nautical miles from shore, lies an area of the ocean known as the high seas. These waters, beyond the jurisdiction of any nation, make up roughly two-thirds of the ocean and cover nearly half of the planet’s surface. Much is still to be learned about these areas, but scientists know they teem with life and are among the largest reservoirs of ocean biodiversity. The high seas support abundant fisheries; provide habitat and migratory routes for whales, sharks, sea turtles, and seabirds; and harbor remarkable ecosystems, such as deep-water corals and other majestic marine life.


The high seas are also an increasingly busy space; rapid advances in technology and increasing demand for goods and trade in recent decades mean virtually no part of the ocean—including these waters far from shore— remains untouched by human industrial activity. Currently, a patchwork of different regional and sectoral organizations manages this last global common space with little coordination among organizations, and that is leading to the degradation of the marine environment and its resources. These areas belong to everyone, yet governments currently have no comprehensive legal mechanism in place to protect high seas marine life.

Read the full report here.

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