Oceans and the Law of the Sea
UN and Related Bodies
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) — regulates in a comprehensive way numerous maritime issues. These include rights of civil and naval navigation; the protection of coasts and the marine environment; rights to living and non-living resources; and marine scientific research. (Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs website)
- Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea — removed certain obstacles relating to the seabed area that had prevented mainly industrialized countries from signing the Convention.
- International Seabed Authority — the organization through which states parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea organize and control activities relating to the deep seabed’s mineral resources in the international seabed area, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Inaugurated in 1994, it is located in Kingston, Jamaica.
- International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea — operational since 1996; established to settle disputes relating to the interpretation or application of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). Composed of 21 judges elected by the states parties, it is located in the German seaport of Hamburg. It received its first application instituting a case in 2001.
- Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf — established to facilitate implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with respect to delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf when that submerged portion of the land territory of a coastal state extends beyond the 200 nautical miles from its coastline — established as the minimal legal distance under the Convention. Under article 76 of the Convention, the coastal state may establish the outer limits of its juridical continental shelf, in such cases, through the application of specified scientific and technical formulas.
- Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (1991), concluded under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (1979) — aims to promote close cooperation among parties to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for small cetaceans. States parties are obligated to engage in habitat conservation and management, surveys and research, pollution mitigation and public information.
- The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (1996) — seeks to reduce the threat to cetaceans in Mediterranean and Black Sea waters. It requires that states implement a detailed conservation plan for cetaceans, including legislation banning the deliberate capture of cetaceans; measures to minimize their incidental capture; and the creation of protected zones.
- 1970 Declaration of Principles Governing the Seabed and the Ocean Floor, and the Subsoil Thereof, beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction
- 1971 Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons on the Sea-bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof (Sea-bed Treaty) — bans the emplacement of nuclear weapons, or any weapon of mass destruction, on the sea-bed or ocean floor.
- UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission— of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which promotes international cooperation and coordinates programmes in marine research, services, observation systems, hazard mitigation and capacity development in order to learn more and better manage the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas.
- UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme — of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which acts to protect oceans and seas and promote the environmentally sound use of marine resources.
- UNEP’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities — adopted in 1995 under UNEP auspices. A milestone in international efforts to protect oceans, estuaries and coastal waters from pollution caused by human activities on land, it addresses what might be the most serious threat to the marine environment: the flow of chemicals, pollutants and sewage into the sea
- UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) — aims at the protection and conservation of the diverse range of species of animal and plant life and their habitats.
- Some specific programmes under the Convention:
- 1995 United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks — provides a regime for the conservation and management of these stocks, with a view to ensuring their long-term conservation and sustainable use. Entered into force in 2001.
- International Maritime Organization (IMO) —the United Nations specialized agency responsible for measures to prevent marine pollution from ships and to improve the safety of international shipping.
- UNEP’s Global Marine Oil Pollution Information Gateway — a clearing-house mechanism under the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. A clearing-house for information on the global, regional and local problems caused by marine oil pollution, the international community’s efforts to address the problem, and the quest for ways to take preventive action.
- Some IMO initiatives in the control of oil pollution — from UN Cyberschoolbus
- International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL) — and the 1954 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (the “OILPOL Convention”)
- Main treaties developed by IMO: the International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties (1969); the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters (1972); and the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (1990)
- Additional IMO treaties: the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) (1969) and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Oil Pollution Damage (FUND) (1971) establish a system for providing compensation to those who have suffered financially as a result of pollution. As revised in 1992, they enable victims of oil pollution to obtain compensation much more simply and quickly than had been possible before.
the disarmament sphere, a major UN initiative for protecting the oceans took shape in the
1971 Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons on the Sea-bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof (Sea-bed Treaty) — bans the emplacement of nuclear weapons, or any weapon of mass destruction, on the sea-bed or ocean floor.