Key areas of the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Pacific should be designated protected areas in order to safeguard vulnerable coastal communities’ livelihoods, new research published this week reveals.
“Ecological connectivity between the areas beyond national jurisdiction and coastal waters,” led by researchers from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), demonstrates that coastal communities in least developed countries (LDCs) are highly dependent on key areas of the ‘high seas.” These are the central Indian Ocean (the Mascarene Plateau beyond national jurisdiction), the northern Bay of Bengal and the ‘high seas pockets’ of the Pacific Islands. This is despite their being more than 200 nautical miles from coastlines, which currently are largely ungoverned international waters.
These areas are critical to the overall livelihoods of coastal LDCs for employment, food supply and income opportunities. They are also crucial to the life cycles of fish stocks, their development and migration as well as for carbon sequestration, which is a key process for mitigating climate change and sea level rise. Many areas of the high seas are already being impacted by pollution, including from plastic contamination and shipping, overfishing, mining and geoengineering experiments.