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High Stakes on the High Seas: A Call for International Reserves

 
Terry Goss/Wikimedia
A great white shark near Isla Guadalupe, Mexico in the Pacific Ocean.


Marine protected areas in national waters have proven successful in helping depleted fish stocks to recover. Now, there is growing momentum for the creation of extensive reserves on the high seas as a way of reversing decades of rampant overfishing.

by nicola jones

Halfway between California and Hawaii is a pristine spot where, once a year, some 80 percent of northeastern Pacific great white sharks come to meet. No one knows why they congregate in this place, nicknamed the “White Shark Café” by the researchers who discovered it in the early 2000s. It is a unique and mysterious site, yet there is nothing to stop the international longline fleet from plying these waters.


The shark café is just one of many special sites in the open ocean with no formal mechanism of protection. They aren’t in any park, heritage site, or marine protected area. There is no single global mechanism to guard them, police them, or protect them. Stranded in the high seas — the two thirds of our oceans that fall outside of national ownership — they escape the usual rules of law. Like the old Wild West, this is the Wild Wet.

But just as international agreements have arisen to govern the “global commons” of our planet’s atmosphere and temperature, momentum is now growing to grapple with the common wealth of the sea. “There has been a ramping up of efforts,” says University of British Columbia economist Rashid Sumaila, who studies high seas fisheries. The United Nations is working up a new legally binding agreement on high seas biodiversity, for example, and an international Global Ocean Commission released its final report on protecting the high seas in February of this year. 

Source Environment 360

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