The High Seas are home to the largest habitat for life on earth, covering over half our planet. From floating rainforests to giant undersea volcanoes, these vital ecosystems are extraordinary sites for biodiversity. Since they lie in international waters, outside of any national jurisdiction, they lack the environmental protection afforded to land-based sites. As a result, they are threatened by overfishing, pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) issued a warning to UNESCO in 2013 stating that the High Seas are the most fundamental gap in their world heritage list. After admitting this was a profound historical oversight, UNESCO collaborated with IUCN along with Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation to develop a report called World Heritage in the High Seas: An Idea Whose Time has Come. This lengthy document, published in July, explores the outstanding universal value of the High Seas, how to identify and protect various sites, and how the World Heritage Convention may one day be applied to them. While this initiative is still in its infancy, it is an environmental victory for the deep, remote sites in our planet’s oceans. It's also a wonderful opportunity for new research around regions that are largely unexplored.
Exploring the World Heritage Convention for High Seas conservation, by UNESCO, via YouTube