A New High Seas Treaty Aims to Protect Oceans that Cover Half the Earth

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Underwater photo of beautiful rays of light over the reef. From a scuba dive

After two decades of trying, the United Nations has finalized a treaty to protect the high seas – that part of the ocean which covers nearly half the earth’s surface and falls outside of the jurisdiction of individual nations. There beneath the lens of blue water is an ecosystem with more species than exist on land. There are seamounts in the Pacific covered in golden corals that are the oldest living animals on the planet, having existed since the time of the pyramids. There is an underwater fertile crescent off South America where the interplay of plants, fish, and predators create a world unto its own. There are Yosemites and Everests beneath the surface of the ocean that we are only just learning about. And all of this is endangered by pollution, overfishing, and even deepsea mining. We’ll talk about what it means to protect the high seas and the impact the treaty will have on California’s coastal waters and ocean life.


Kristina Gjerde, lawyer and Senior High Seas Advisor, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Global Marine and Polar Programme. Gjerde is also an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Douglas McCauley, associate professor, Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, UC Santa Barbara. McCauley also heads the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory at the University of California Santa Barbara

Christopher Chin, executive director, Center for Oceanic Awareness Research and Education based in the Bay Area