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World Heritage in the High Seas

The world’s ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction span half the globe. Just as on land, the deepest and most remote ocean areas harbour globally unique ecosystems. To date, none have received recognition or protection under the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

World Heritage in the High Seas:
An Idea Whose Time Has Come

In 2011, the UNESCO External Auditor recommended States Parties to the 1972 World Heritage Convention to explore the possible protection of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. Between 2015-2021, the World Heritage Centre’s Marine programme, in collaboration with IUCN, has developed the groundwork that provides insight in the scientific, policy and legal aspects of nominating and protecting World Heritage in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction.

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Illustrations of potential Outstanding Universal Value in the High Seas

In 2016, IUCN and UNESCO published the first global scientific analysis of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction that could potentially meet at least one of the four natural World Heritage criteria. Suggested areas included White Shark Café, Costa Rica Thermal Dome, Lost City Hydrothermal Field, Atlantis Bank and Sargasso Sea.

Watch the film Photo gallery 2016 Legal Options

Practical modalities of nominating and protecting marine ABNJ

In 2018, an international team of legal experts convened in Monaco to explore the policy and legal challenges and opportunities to nominate, protect and evaluate marine areas of potential Outstanding Universal Value in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). The work takes into account ongoing negotiations in the framework of the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Photo gallery 2018 Meeting Proceedings



Summary Brochure

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Legal Meeting Proceedings

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This work was done in collaboration with IUCN and made possible with the support of the French Biodiversity Agency and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Nekton Foundation, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation and Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Copyrights (top to bottom): © Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana, © DiveIvanov/Shutterstock.com (picture), © UNESCO/IE Storia LLC (film), © UNESCO/mouv-up.com