Roadmap to Recovery
The high seas lie beyond the 200 nautical mile limits that define the extent of national sovereignty by countries of the world. They cover 64% of the area of the oceans, and nearly half the surface of the planet. They are a global commons, under the stewardship of the United Nations Law of the Sea for the benefit of all nations. But human pressures on the high seas are increasing fast, and urgent action is needed to protect them from harm. Recent research shows that industrial fishing has reduced populations of large, predatory fish, like tunas and billfish, by ninety percent or more in the last fifty years. Some particularly vulnerable species, like sharks, have been reduced by factors of a hundred, or even a thousand. In the process of capturing these fish, industrial fishing methods are killing untold numbers of other wildlife, endangering birds, turtles and marine mammals. In the deep sea, heavy bottom trawling gears are destroying seamount habitats that have taken thousands of years to develop and may be irreplaceable on human timescales. Much of this activity is illegal, unregulated or goes unreported.