The high seas form a vast global commons that covers 61% of the area of the ocean and 73% of its volume. They encompass an astonishing 43% of the Earth’s surface and occupy 70% of the living space on our planet, including land and sea. These international waters are home to a stunning wealth of marine life and ecosystems, and by virtue of their enormous expanse, are essential to the healthy functioning of planet Earth. But in recent decades that life has dwindled under the rising impact of multiple human stresses, prompting an historic effort by the United Nations to increase protection and reform management.

Ocean sanctuaries are a key tool for protecting habitats and species, rebuilding ocean biodiversity, helping ocean ecosystems recover and maintaining vital ecosystem services. This report shows that it is entirely feasible to design an ecologically representative, planet-wide network of high seas protected areas to address the crisis facing our oceans and enable their recovery. The need is immediate and the means readily available. All that is required is the political will.

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