Preserve the High Seas

Lying beyond the authority of any one country, the high seas make up nearly two-thirds of the world’s oceans and cover almost half the planet. These waters hold perhaps the largest reserve of undisturbed biodiversity on earth, and new species are discovered with practically every voyage to the deep ocean. 

Because they lack clear rules and effective enforcement, the high seas face growing threats from overfishing, deep seabed mining, trash, and noise and chemical pollution. Industrial fishing fleets have plundered marine life. Gyres of plastic debris stretch for thousands of miles. And problems like ocean acidification and warming continue to intensify.

Aleksandr Zaitcev/iStock


NRDC is working to create a new United Nations treaty focused on the conservation of the high seas—one of the most far-reaching opportunities to protect marine life. If the international community agrees to a set of strong conservation measures backed by robust enforcement, it will big a huge step forward.

We have helped build momentum for a high seas treaty since 2006, highlighting the need for better management of human activity and working with partners across the globe to build consensus around key aspects of the agreement.

Our efforts paid off in January 2015, when countries gathered at the United Nations and agreed to develop a new, legally binding framework for conserving marine biological diversity on the high seas. As the negotiations continue to unfold, NRDC is helping shape the structure of the process and educate countries’ representatives about the value of sustainable oceans management. We are encouraging nations that have championed high seas protections to stay engaged and continue to lead, while pushing back against efforts by those who want to weaken the final agreement.

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