The High Seas in Numbers
It’s a curious fact that while there’s plenty of information out there on the management of the high seas (or international waters), you rarely see the high seas in numbers. For instance, check out the pages over at the FAO or wikipedia. You get a decent amount of information on the legal institutions governing the high seas, but not much else.
Frankly, while I support every bit of advocacy for better high seas management, I sometimes wonder if this lack of specificity doesn’t lead us fisheries conservationists to over-emphasize the importance of the high seas to global ecosystem health, perhaps at a loss to other areas, like inland waters and their freshwater fisheries. There would be a lot to unpack if we were to properly debate this, so instead, I thought I’d just add my grain of sand with a post providing easy to access numbers and graphics.
So here are the basic numbers on the high seas, as provided by The Sea Around Us Project.
1. The high seas represent 61% of the global ocean and 43% of the entire planet.
2. In spite of its geographic importance, the high seas are fished for just 13% of the annual marine fish landings by weight.
3. High seas catches are relatively high value, and account for 17% of the annual marine fish landings by value.
5. By value, the four most important target species for high seas fishing operations are a similar group of species: Skipjack Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, and Albacore.
7. The four leading fishing countries on the high seas are Chile, China, Japan, and Thailand. However, caution should be exercised here as the true controlling influence of a vessel can be easily hidden with shell companies and the flexibility in flagging vessels afforded by international law.