The high seas -- the 58% of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction -- are home to tunas, billfishes, sharks and whales. And if they were protected, these areas would be more socially, economically and ecologically valuable, a new study showed last week.
Right now, only 1% of the oceans is closed to fishing, and most of that is under national protection within 200 nautical miles of the coastline.
Put another way: 99% of the oceans is open to fishing and even more than 99% of the high seas. As countries overfished their local waters in the last half-century, they moved offshore, deeper, and in search of new species to feed the growing appetite for seafood.
Realizing that the entire ocean was at risk of overexploitation, countries established a goal to protect a minimum of 10% of the oceans (12% of land is protected globally) by 2020. But protecting at least 58% of the ocean appears to be a smarter option.
Scientists built a model to examine what would happen if parts of the high seas were closed to fishing. They found the most valuable option was to close all of the high seas to fishing, which would double fisheries profits, increase fisheries catches within national jurisdictions by 30% (because international fish would 'spillover' into national waters), and more than double the number of fish left in the ocean -- a win-win-win in terms of society, economics and wildlife.