The world’s oceans play a critical role in maintaining the biosphere. Indeed, humans depend on healthy seas for producing 20% of the protein we eat and nearly 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Oceans also play a critical role in the global climate and carbon cycle, absorbing much of the carbon dioxide we emit daily into the atmosphere.

Yet, as never before, human activities are causing stress to the oceans, and, by extension, to the biosphere. These threats stem from destructive and overzealous fishing practices, that have resulted in a situation where over 75% of the world’s major fisheries are currently fully exploited, over- exploited, or depleted. It has also pushed many large and long-lived ocean wanderers such as albatross and leatherback turtles to the brink of extinction and has led to the destruction of fragile deep sea habitats atop underwater seamounts, banks and ridges.

For more information:
Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and the High Seas
High Seas Bottom Trawl Fisheries and their impacts on the Biodiversity of Vulnerable Deep Sea Ecosystems

At the same time, pollution from land-based industry, agriculture and households, from maritime shipping and offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation, is weakening marine ecosystems and species, undermining their ability to withstand further stresses, in particular from climate change. Increases in carbon dioxide have outpaced the oceans ability to absorb them without harm, resulting in increasing acidity which slows the growth of corals and other organisms with calcium skeletons or shells.

For more information:
The Future Oceans - warming up, rising high, turning sour

Thus scientists now predict that warming waters, increasing acidity and changing circulation patterns may cause dramatic shifts in where species live, where they roam, and how they interact with each other.

In addition to conserving biodiversity and increasing productivity, MPAs are now perceived as one of the key tools for improving the fitness and ability of marine ecosystems to respond to changing oceanic conditions caused by modern human activities. Thus MPAs are more important than ever.


WCPA’s work on high seas MPAs spans decades. The WCPA High Seas MPA Task Force was officially established in 2003 following the Vth IUCN World Parks Congress where marine experts formulated a 10-Year High Seas MPA Strategy. The 10 year Strategy built upon the results of a joint IUCN, WCPA and WWF expert's workshop on high seas MPAs in January 2003. Towards a Strategy for High Seas MPAs.

The WCPA High Seas MPA Task Force now contains over 20 individual experts from a variety of government agencies, conservation organizations, scientific institutions, universities, and media

Our goal is to achieve for the High Seas the fundamental objectives of the 1988World Conservation Strategy -- repeated in IUCN's Guidelines for Marine Protected Areas:

● to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems;
● to preserve genetic diversity; and
● to ensure the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.

Soft coral (Paragorgia sp.) with brisingid sea star

Soft coral (Paragorgia sp.) with brisingid sea star

Photo: © Deep Atlantic Stepping Stones Science Team/IFE/URI/NOAA

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Kristina Gjerde
  • Katarina Gjerde

WCPA Task Force Leader High Seas

Email: kgjerde@eip.com.pl



More information