Secondary School Kit on the United Nations: A Web Adaptation

Unit 15: Cleaner Oceans
International Maritime Organization (IMO)

FactFileUN Factfile:
The Law of the sea
The Convention on the Law of the Sea is considered one of the UN's most outstanding achievements. It is a set of rules governing all uses of the sea, including navigation, research and fishing. Coastal countries have exclusive economic rights up to 200 nautical miles from their coast. Beyond that no one country has exclusive rights and use of the seas there is managed and monitored by the International Seabed Authority. The Convention also aims to protect the sea from pollution. Image
The UN first considered the question "Who owns the seas?" in 1958, but the initial conventions failed to fully address the concerns of Member States. After nine years of complex and contentious deliberations, Member States finally opened the Convention for signature in 1982. On the first day 119 states signed it - more than any other treaty ever before. The convention entered into force on 16 November 1994, one year after the sixtieth state had ratified it.


  1. In discussion groups try to agree on an answer to the question "Who owns the seas?"
  2. Write a Convention concerning the dumping of waste at sea. It should contain five or six points which governments can incorporate in their own laws if they sign up to it. These need to be acceptable to a majority of countries.
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