SOURCE: Marine Conservation Biology Institute (http://www.mcbi.org/)
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.
Extending from the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica to most of the Indian, Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, these areas cover 45% of the Earth’s surface. Hidden beneath the surface of the high seas are extraordinary places that are in urgent need of our protection. 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 recently decided that key high seas ecosystems should be protected, and agreed on a common set of criteria to start selecting these areas. To help them, we asked scientists from around the world to name examples of high seas sites that reflect these criteria as areas of concentrated abundance or diversity, rarity, naturalness, or vulnerability; or which function as key habitats such as feeding and breeding grounds for long-distance migrants. The ten sites described herein illustrate just a few of the special places scientists suggested and that merit further conservation consideration.
The High Seas Gems Project highlights the beautiful biodiversity of the high seas, and is a collaboration of MCBI, IUCN, WCPA, and Chantecaille Beauté.