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Deep-sea fisheries in the high seas have unique management challenges because of the nature of the resources they contain, the potential vulnerability of the ecosystems in which they occur, and the fact that they often take place in international waters that are outside the control of any one State. The conservation of habitats and marine resources and sustainable fishing practices in the high seas depends, more than in any other marine area, on the willingness of flag States and vessel operators to adopt sustainable and responsible management strategies.

The legal governance framework of the high seas is based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This law, together with other international binding and non-binding agreements, constitute the legal framework for the governance of the high seas. 

Sustainable Use and Conservation of Deep-sea High Seas Resources

The specific characteristics of deep-sea fisheries including complex ecosystems, their great depths and distances from the coast, and complex governance frameworks pose several management challenges.

To assist member countries to address these challenges, FAO developed the International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas. The Guidelines are a voluntary international instrument intended to support States and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) in formulating and implementing appropriate measures for the sustainable management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas.

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