Defending the Deep Blue – Perspectives on Marine Protected Areas in the High Seas


The health of the ocean is of the common concern of humanity. While the ocean environmental challenge rose, states have been taken progressive measures to combat the problems within their water. However, the actions to protect the ocean beyond national jurisdiction is falling behind. Focusing on issues relating to the high sea marine protected areas(MPAs) in the context of BBNJ ( conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction), this report tries to illustrate the complexity of high sea governance and elaborate the necessity of protecting the high seas from the perspective of politics, science, management and law.

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More than 60% of the global ocean, commonly known as the high seas, is outside the jurisdiction of sovereign states. The high seas belong to everyone. The resources of the high seas are open to all and need to be governed by states together. The living resources in the high seas are already over-exploited. And the establishment of marine protected areas(MPAs) is considered to be conducive to the long-term conservation of high seas ecosystems.

In this report, we focus on the MPA issue in the context of the BBNJ negotiations (full name: Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction). We explore this issue through perspectives of politics, science, management and law. It is our aim to distinguish the mindset for high seas governance with the mindset of land sovereignty, to highlight the necessity for applying the precautionary approach in a changing environment, to discuss the distinctiveness and rationale of high sea MPAs. We also cases in the Arctic Central High Seas and the Sargasso Sea to illustrate our arguments.

Greenovation Hub is paying attention to the rise of China as a maritime power. We are looking forward to supporting China’s contribution to the conservation of the biodiversity in the high seas. We want to help readers from different backgrounds to get a closer look at the remote ocean and inspire them to adopt an “ocean perspective” in their studying and thinking on the ocean. We believe more interests and debate on high sea conservation will promote China’s endeavour in addressing the challenges in the governance of the high seas.