4 Reasons Why the High Seas are in Trouble

By February 15, 2011 September 16th, 2011 Ocean News

The High Seas, the area of open Oceans that is not seen by many people other than Ocean users or protected by any nation around the world. Nations protect 34% of the Oceans as they fall within the 200 NM Economic Exclusive Zone of coastal nations, which means 64% of the Oceans are not protected. Businesses and people are free to exploit the High Seas as they see fit. This needs to stop! Kristina Gjerde works with the Census of Marine Life to share the wonders of the High Seas and the Issues they face. The Census of Marine Life is a global initiative that lasted over a decade to discover as much as humanly possible about the Oceans. It’s major conclusions was that we still only know about less than 1% of what lies beneath the Oceans. Is this because the Census of Marine Life didn’t do a good job? Absolutely not! They did a terrific job. Their results mean that we need to work harder to gain a better understanding of marine life and protect the parts that we don’t know. Including the High Seas!

Kristina discusses the problems with managing the High Seas in her TED Talk (See Below). I sum up the 4 main reasons why the High Seas are in trouble AND I would like to hear your suggestions as to how we can improve the management of the High Seas.

Reason #1 – There is a lack of international protection of the High Seas. As I mentioned previously, coastal nations have the legal right to enforce protection from their coastline out as far as 200 NM (370.4 km), but the rest of the High Seas are not governed by any nation or a group of nations. People and businesses are allowed to do whatever they would like in these international waters and trust me they do! Until an international body such as the United Nations protect and enforce the International High Seas, the habitats and species of these waters, we will never discover the other 99% of the Oceans.

Reason #2 – The next two reasons stem from Reason #1. Fisheries within the 200 NM zone of coastal nations are being decimated around the world…and most are government regulated. These fisheries would probably not be here at all if it weren’t the minimal management occurring in most nations. Now imagine the fisheries in the High Seas without any regulation. Think about how many fish populations are now extinct due to our decades and centuries of fishing without regulation. Pretty scary isn’t it! The problem will only get worse if there is no regulation in 64% of the world’s Oceans.

Reason #3 – Plastic, oil, cables, and other garbage are dumped overboard in the High Seas. Most coastal nations have regulations that prohibit the dumping of any materials overboard within the 200 NM jurisdiction zone, but the High Seas act as a human garbage can. What’s the big deal? The big deal is the floating pieces of plastic and other garbage hurt and kill fish and other wildlife such as marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. Juvenile fish hide in the floating garbage to avoid predators, but they ingest the plastic, choke, and die. Over 1 million animals die from plastic pollution every year. Protection and Regulation can help reduce the amount of plastic and garbage dumped in the High Seas.

Reason #4 – We can’t see the High Seas on a regular basis. Jacques Cousteau is famous for saying “We protect what we know”, but we know very little about the International High Seas. We barely know anything about the coastal waters. It’s time that we get familiar with what we don’t know. Make an effort to get to know your High Seas because it belongs to you, me and the world and it is our responsibility to protect it!

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