High Seas Marine Protected Areas: Safeguarding Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

Event Date: 
December 16, 2010

Open to all, the high seas have long been subject to exploration and resource extraction. Over the years, advancing technology and depletion of near shore resources has increased international interest in the living and mineral resources in those areas that lie beyond national jurisdiction.

The methods that make these resources more accessible are not always sustainable, despite the international obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment codified in Articles 192 and 194(5) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. For example, bottom trawling can destroy seamounts and deep sea corals, but support for banning such methods varies by country and region.

One emerging method to protect areas of high biodiversity or vulnerability in areas beyond national jurisdiction is the designation of high seas marine protected areas (MPAs). There is no generally applicable legal mechanism for establishing high seas MPAs, yet several States and international organizations have recently taken steps to establish MPAs by specific agreement.

Despite limited international provisions for the establishing high sea MPAs, States are taking steps to designate MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including in the North-East Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

High Seas Marine Protected Areas, co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute and the District of Columbia Bar, is free and open to the public. You may also join the session via webinar or teleconference. RSVP required.

The panelists will discuss the international rationale and underlying legal framework for establishing MPAs on the high seas. Looking at recent developments, the panelists will discuss strategies for setting aside protected areas and the implications of different methods and approaches.


  • Jeff Ardron, Director, High Seas Program, Marine Conservation Biology Institute
  • David Freestone, Executive Director, Sargasso Sea Initiative
  • Elizabeth Kim, Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, US Department of State
  • K. Russell LaMotte, Principal, Beveridge & Diamond (member of World Ocean Council)


  • John Pendergrass, Senior Attorney, Co-Director, International Program, Environmental Law Institute

The 2010 Ocean Seminar Series is generously supported by the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation.

More information on ELI's Ocean Series.

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