Shocking extent of threats to ocean health revealed in new Greenpeace report

Threats to the world's oceans are multiplying, according to a new report, which shows a steep rise in fishing on the high seas. Ratifying the Global Oceans Treaty has never been more urgent.


The number of hours spent fishing in international waters has increased dramatically in the last few years, according to a major new analysis of threats facing our blue planet. It found that the time industrial vessels spent fishing on the high seas rose to over 8.5 million hours last year – 8.5% higher than in 2018.

It comes a week before the UK and other governments are set to sign the historic Global Ocean Treaty at the United Nations in New York (20 September). 

The Greenpeace report 30×30: From Global Ocean Treaty to Protection at Sea sets out a political roadmap to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 – the UN’s 30×30 target – using the new Ocean Treaty that was agreed earlier this year.

It details the growing threats facing the oceans and includes a new global analysis of fishing activity: Between 2018 and 2022, apparent fishing activity in the high seas rose by 8.5% to nearly 8.5 million hours – an increase of 662,483 hours. Drifting longlines make up over three-quarters of all recorded fishing activity – a destructive method that results in high levels of bycatch. 

The rise in fishing activity was even higher (22.5%) in areas of the ocean that scientists have identified as being most in need of protection. The report includes a foreword by Professor Callum Roberts, whose groundbreaking modelling provided the basis for the original 30×30 Blueprint for Ocean Protection.

As well as fishing, the report also details how ocean warming, acidification, pollution and the emerging threat of deep sea mining are placing ever more strain on ocean ecosystems, making clear the urgency of political action to deliver 30×30 using the Ocean Treaty. 

Fiona Nicholls of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign said:

The Ocean Treaty was a historic win for nature but as our report shows, the threats to marine life worsen every day. The Treaty gives us a powerful tool to protect the oceans, but now Foreign Secretary James Cleverly must set an example to other governments by urgently signing and ratifying it. For all of our sakes, leaders must use the Treaty to urgently create new ocean sanctuaries on the high seas that give our oceans and all the life within them a fighting chance.”

Greenpeace has partnered with the film actors Simon Pegg and Jane Fonda, and with the US singer and actor Camila Cabello, to produce an animated short film, available here. The animation follows the journey of three sea creatures as they escape the threats detailed in this report to find an ocean sanctuary.  

Fully or highly protected ocean sanctuaries, which can be established under the Treaty, are a solution to the ocean and climate crisis. They provide a safe haven for marine life, free from human pressures, helping fish populations recover.

Currently, less than 1% of the high seas are properly protected and to reach the 30×30 target, around 11 million square kilometres (4.3m square miles) of ocean must be protected every year – more than the surface of the UK and Canada combined.

Fiona Nicholls continued:

Destructive industrial practices at sea threaten the future of ocean health and by extension, the future health of our whole planet. To give marine life a chance, at least 30% of the oceans must be protected in a network of ocean sanctuaries by 2030 – we have just seven years left. Countries serious about ocean protection must sign the Ocean Treaty next week at the UN General Assembly and ensure that it is ratified as soon as possible.

Greenpeace’s report outlines the political steps and actions necessary to establish these ocean sanctuaries using the Treaty. It recommends three specific sites on the high seas to be among the first set of ocean sanctuaries, due to their ecological significance: the Emperor Seamounts in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic ocean and the South Tasman Sea/Lord Howe Rise between Australia and New Zealand. 

The UK, as a signatory of the Hamilton Declaration, would be well placed to champion a future Sargasso Sea marine protected area proposal.



Kai Tabacek, Global Press Office, Greenpeace UK:, 07970 030019

Greenpeace International Press Desk:, +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

Notes to editors:

Greenpeace’s short animated film and stills from it are available for download and publication here. Photo/video of the threats facing the oceans is available on request.

Read or download 30×30: From Global Ocean Treaty to Protection at Sea here.

There was an 8.5% increase (662,483 hours) in apparent high seas fishing hours between 2018 (7,825,411 hours) and 2022 (8,487,894 hours). A larger increase in apparent fishing activity of 22.5% was found in the areas recommended for protection under 30×30. This analysis, conducted in collaboration with Global Fishing Watches, uses AIS data on the speed and direction of vessels to estimate fishing activity. The methodology is explained in the report.

In 2019, Greenpeace published in the 30×30: A Blueprint for Ocean Protection report a new approach to designing and creating a network of fully protected marine protected areas. The researchers broke down the oceans that are classed as ‘international waters’ – which cover almost half the planet – into 25,000 squares of 100km x 100km, and then mapped the distribution of 458 different conservation features, including wildlife, habitats and key oceanographic features, generating a proposal for what a network of ocean sanctuaries could look like. 

The Treaty will open for signatures on 20 September 2023, during the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. Countries signing the Treaty does not require a legal process in domestic legislation, but just indicates an intention in future to ratify. Ratification requires domestic legislation in each individual country, and after 60 countries have ratified, the Treaty will become legally binding.

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