Law of the Sea

pg. 27: a significant expansion of Marine Protected Areas, including Large Ocean Reserves, as well as a formal review of the adequacy of the Law of the Sea Treaty and Fish Stocks Agreement [bold in the original] in view of the ongoing degradation of major fisheries around the world.


Readers' Guide Comment on “a formal review of the adequacy of the Law of the Sea Treaty and Fish Stocks Agreement”      

Maritime law is a good example of the need to extend the scope of international legal instruments. Traditional definitions of scope of maritime law have been focused on the right of naval and commercial passage through ‘international waters’, and on granting underwater extensions of national land boundaries as Exclusive Economic Zones. The effect of this is that governance of two-thirds of the globe is essentially under military and commercial power. This has been a significant obstacle for climate change negotiations (e.g. emissions from ships), for food security (e.g. preserving fish populations), for the trade regime (e.g. developing rules on protection of endangered species), and for liability and compensation systems (e.g. ocean dumping and waste disposal).

It should be recalled that the Law of the Sea Treaty (UNLOS) is principally about facilitating natural resources extraction and naval rights of way. The environmental provisions of the UNLOS are a minor feature of the agreement.  If these two international agreements were to have a role in sustainable development, their central focus would have to be revised and a good number of countries may well want to re-open issues relating to naval passage and enforcement of fishing rights in exclusive economic zones.

A high-level independent review of the Fish Stock Agreement and the convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty would no doubt produce some very useful ideas. However, WEF does not say how to translate these useful ideas (or any of the current ideas for the expansion of these two agreements) into a practical, effective ocean governance system.

Related Ideas: Four Tools; Managing economic globalization; Beyond territorial boundaries; Options for functional governance.

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