Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Protecting Marine Ecosystems

High Seas Conservation

Dumbo Octopus
A school of bluefin tuna. Image: NOAA

The largest, least-protected places on our blue planet are found in the high seas – the open ocean and deep seabed that lie seaward of individual nations’ jurisdictions.  They cover about 45% of the Earth’s surface, and 64% of the oceans.  Belonging to no single nation, they have been, for too long, neglected by all.

The high seas are home to great whales, sea turtles, seabirds, tunas, and sharks that traverse entire ocean basins in search of food.  They house deep-dwelling fishes and invertebrate animals that live long, slow-motion lives in eternal darkness.  High seas ecosystems include places where great water masses meet and species congregate as well as vast muddy plains, coral-capped seamounts, and vents that shoot hot water into the frigid depths.  These places give rise to many rich and precious life forms found nowhere else on the planet.

High seas biodiversity is threatened by fishing, climate change and other human-caused impacts.  These losses are also our losses, as they threaten the ability of the oceans to sustain marine life and support human societies. 

The global community, through the UN, has decided that key high seas ecosystems should be protected. Recently, both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the FAO have developed criteria to start selecting these areas.  Never before has there been such an opportunity to begin protecting the high seas, and MCBI is ready and committed to organizing and providing the science necessary for making meaningful lasting decisions.


Our Work on High Seas Conservation:

GOBIGlobal Ocean Biodiversity Initiative- An international partnership advancing the scientific basis for conserving biological diversity in the deep seas and open oceans.


IMCCSurveillance and Enforcement of Remote Maritime Areas (SERMA)
Surveillance technical options paper
- Protecting those areas previously thought to be out of reach.

UNScientists’ Statement to the United Nations General Assembly regarding Progress made in Protecting Vulnerable Deep Sea Ecosystems - Advocating for stronger protection for deep sea corals and ecosystems.

IMCCHow will Conservation Science meet Policy Requirements on the High Seas? - A workshop at the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) hosted by MCBI

High Seas GemsHigh Seas Gems: Hidden Treasures of Our Blue Earth - A booklet highlighting special places in the high seas.

UNThe Deep Sea Conservation Coalition - MCBI and a growing number of organisations, are working together to protect seamounts, cold-water corals and vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems.

IMCCConvention on Biological Diversity - Scientific criteria for identifying ecologically significant marine areas in need of protection on the high seas.

High Seas GemsHigh-Seas Bottom Trawling - A bibliography of the best peer-reviewed papers and books addressing habitat destruction.







Learn More: See MCBI’s past and present efforts to strengthen place-based management of marine resources on the high seas.

Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative

Scientists’ Statement to the United Nations

IMCC Workshop

Check out our high seas gems booklet and explore the sites in google earth.

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

Convention on Biological Diversity

High-Seas Bottom Trawling - A bibliography of peer-reviewed papers and books addressing habitat destruction.