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Law Of The Sea Convention And Reality

The international law on the sea offers a framework for behavior that must be followed, particularly in connection to commercial interests. It controls marine navigation, oil and gas extraction, and fishing. Regulations also apply to the preservation of the marine ecosystem and the use of other deep-sea resources.

The legislation creates several legal zones on the oceans. It provides standards controlling the rights & jurisdiction of the coastline and flag states with respect to these zones and specifies the legal standing and boundaries of these zones. Particularly in relation to economic interests, the international law of the sea provides an outline for behavior which must be adhered to[1]. Fishing, oil and gas exploitation, and sea navigation are all under its jurisdiction. The protection of marine ecology and the utilization of additional deep-sea resources are likewise subject to regulations.[2]

The continental shelf is covered by particular provisions of UNCLOS, some of which may extend deep below the EEZ. Similar to the EEZ, only the state with a coastline has the authority to explore and utilize natural resources in this region of jurisdiction. Every coastline state in the globe must have a continental shelf by law and nature, although the breadth of the shelf varies significantly depending on the local geology.

But as things stand, each coastal state is allowed to assert a continental shelf that extends as much as 200 nautical miles. Even more, space can be referred to as the continental shelf if the natural shelf goes beyond 200 nautical miles. The Act establishes a number of maritime legal zones. It outlines the legal status and limits of these zones as well as norms governing the rights and authority of the flag and coastal states with regard to these zones.[3]

The international law of the sea has seen significant changes during the past 30 years. Four important treaties were developed by the inaugural United Nations Conference for the Law of the Sea in 1958 and were generally embraced by many governments. It, thus, formed a significant corpus of legislation. In 1960, an additional United Nations Conference was organized to address the issue of the territorial sea's breadth, but it was unsuccessful. After 1960, the pace of events picked up even more, and the 1958 Conventions became quickly out of date. Acute concerns arose over issues including the deep seabed's legal status, the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and transit rights across straits, zones, and archipelagic waterways.

The 3rd United Nations Conference was established to address the whole maritime legal system, including the aforementioned concerns of course. The Laws of the Sea Convention, the product of nine years of labor, was finished and made available for signing in 1982. In its completed form, it codifies the vast majority, if not the entirety, of international maritime law. A large portion of this Convention is in a form that is acceptable to almost all governments, although certain nations disagree with particular provisions.

For instance, the main Western industrial countries find Part XI on deep seabed mining to be inherently objectionable. A legal document of this sort would inevitably contain several clauses that call for explanation, elaboration, and interpretation. Given these facts, debate regarding the Convention's interpretation and legal implications has been raging for the last few years. Hotly contested issues include the Convention's character as a whole, its legal implications for third parties, how it interacts with international customary law, and the specific formulation of its provisions.

Material and Methods:
The present study is a doctrinal study i.e., reference from available secondary sources like articles, empirical studies, journals, reports, etc. to analyze the present question in hand.

For millennia, humans have used the sea for their benefit, which has frequently resulted in war. The international community established a thorough framework for the legal administration of the seas with the passage of the UN Convention on the Legislation of Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. This framework has since grown into a potent body of legislation. However, it is unable to address every issue that develops. All legal standards relating to the sea and relevant to interactions between nations are included within the international law on the sea. It includes guidelines for defining and using marine territories as well as clauses for safeguarding and exploring the waters. But other areas are outside its purview, such as those controlled by national laws, such as rules governing port and harbor activities, and maritime law, which is primarily codified in Germany's Commercial Code and governs things like the shipping of products.[4]

For hundreds of thousands of years, people merely had a passing interest in the water since it served as a source of food. But when the major seafaring nations like the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain grew in power starting in the 15th century, these kingdoms were more and more eager to extend their areas of influence. A race to dominate the oceans, distant islands, and coasts began as a result of the availability of natural riches and other new goods, which sparked ambitions. This sparked multiple conflicts and naval engagements. The oceans have drawn increased attention as a supplier of natural resources including oil and gas since the middle of the 20th century.

Many coastal governments made an effort to increase the size of the sea including the seabed within their sovereign authority. The 200 nautical mile area was claimed by someone.[5] The idea of "mare liberum" appeared to be a thing of the past. The four Conventions of Geneva were ultimately ratified under United Nations supervision in 1958 after a first attempt to limit the maximum allowed area of the territorial waters before an international treaty collapsed in 1930. These international accords sought to stop the sea from being permanently partitioned between different nations. This objective was not entirely met, though.

The four Geneva Conventions, or the "old" law of the sea, are now combined into one pact called UNCLOS. However, it really goes beyond the four in terms of substance. For instance, the rights of coastal states are enlarged, in certain circumstances significantly, under the "new" law of the sea in both its qualitative and quantitative dimensions. For instance, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles from the coastline baseline, grants each coastal state the sole right to exploit the fish stocks there. The EEZ was not recognized by the Geneva Conventions. The International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (ITLOS), which started operations in Hamburg in 1996, is likewise governed by UNCLOS.[6]

Review of Literature
The majority of scientists concur that the frozen Arctic cap is melting faster due to climate change. This is an extremely intriguing development from an economic standpoint for two reasons: first, it may allow for the opening of alternative, summer shipping routes that are much shorter, like the Passage of the Northwest and the North Sea Route, which would help with global trade; and second, it will make it much simpler to access the gas and oil deposits thought to be under the Arctic seabed. Expeditions have been launched by the other Arctic littoral states, including Denmark (Greenland), Canada, Norway, and the United States, to show that parts of the ocean floor are submerged extensions of their territories. This has sparked media speculation about the possibility of an "ice-cold war" breaking out in the polar regions.

UNCLOS, which has been referred to as a "constitution for the seas," just offers a standard for international legal control of the oceans and raises a number of unresolved issues. This is especially true for elements that have just recently been determined to be important based on fresh scientific research after UNCLOS was approved in 1982. For instance, there have been recent finds of mineral reserves on the seafloor. Changes are also brought on by global warming. In order to address these new difficulties, UNCLOS may consequently need to be complemented by further accords.[7]

Developing nations welcomed EEZs, while nations with extensive fishing fleets were concerned about losing access to the greatest fishing grounds. As a result, UNCLOS mandated that nations who were considered unable to properly use their fishing areas let foreign fisheries the "surplus".[8] Especially for African nations, this has been terrible. The 250 Fishing Access Agreements (FAAs) which the Soviet Union (formerly Russia), the USA, Japan, and the European Union countries—later joined by China—had created have given their firms practically all the revenues and permitted them to overfish with impunity. Traditional fishing villages and fish stocks have both been completely destroyed.[9]

The business community now has to exert pressure on the UN and other organizations to fix the most glaring flaws in FAAs and associated joint ventures. Most FAAs are not transparent, despite the fact that the European Union currently mandates it for its own. Furthermore, since massive fuel and "capacity enhancing" subsidies from the government are the only reason long-distance fishing is ever possible, they have to be eliminated.

Marine experts have drawn attention to the negative environmental effects of seabed mining, which would harm ecosystems and reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon. Coral reefs and ecosystems will be destroyed by the massive robots' discharges of sediment, which will traverse hundreds of kilometers. Noise will disrupt marine migration and breeding patterns, decreasing the ocean's ability to absorb CO2 further. The line separating exploration from mining is blurry. Geopolitical conflict is another issue. Few nations control the exploration phase; hence, they are unlikely to endorse the UNCLOS's underlying sharing premise. Before the exploration began, consensus would have been simpler to get to.

Reducing CO2 emissions, a climatic gas, is one of the most urgent concerns on the environmental policy agenda. The legal framework of the sea is also affected by this issue. Great hopes are being placed on the ability of the seas and bottom to store atmospheric CO2. However, this is a complicated matter from the law of the sea's standpoint, as shown by a current example, namely the fertilization of the oceans containing iron that provides plant nutrients.

The goal is to increase phytoplankton primary production, which over time will absorb CO2 from the earth's atmosphere as it slowly sinks to the ocean floor. In 2009, the idea was tested as part of the Indo-German "Lohafex" maritime research project.

Despite the fact that UNCLOS provides specific guidelines for protecting the marine environment, neither iron fertilization nor other geo-engineering practices are included in the document. The Convention on the Control of Marine Pollution through Dumping of Wastes as well as Other Matter, accepted within 1972 (London Convention - LC), and the subsequent 1996 London Protocol (LP), which clenched and specified the rules of the London Convention, both provide specific prohibitions against the disposal of waste and other material at sea.

The boundaries of the current version of the law of the sea are becoming abundantly obvious as a result of alterations in the marine ecosystem brought on by global warming. A fresh rush for resources is being sparked by the melting of the Arctic ice sheets, which is allowing access to hitherto undiscovered mineral reserves on the seafloor. How much human interference with the marine environment is now legal under the current legal framework in order to mitigate the effects of climate change is another contentious question.

The law of the sea, or the oceans' constitution, is under strain from factors including global warming, species extinction, overfishing, and marine navigation. The idea of "mare clausum" exemplifies the continual conflict between the territorialization of the sea and their inherent freedom. In reaction to new information and developments, it may occasionally be necessary to modify existing rules, although doing so always carries the danger of extending national maritime jurisdiction. Any legal examination must always begin with the UN Convention of the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

With the Convention, the hopes and goals of the global community have been combined into a framework that is nearly universally accepted and that has thus far shown to be more adaptable and open than frequently thought.

As a result, UNCLOS will continue to have a normative impact on international law in the twenty-first century. The need, however, is that governments be prepared to work together and look for peaceful ways to resolve any disagreements that may develop, particularly in light of and in reaction to the new problems emerging both above and below the oceans.

  1. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  2. 'See generally D.R. Rothwell & T. Stephens, Illegal Southern Ocean Fishing and Prompt Release: Balancing Coastal and Flag State Rights and Interests, 53 Int'l & Comp. L.Q. 155 (2004); D.J. Agnew, The Illegal and Unregulated Fishery for Toothfish in the Southern Ocean and the CCAMLR Catch Documentation Scheme, 24 Marine Pol. 361 (2000).
  3. See "Draft Convention Laws of Maritime Jurisdiction in Time of Peace", International Law Association, Report of the 34th Conference (Vienna 1927).
  4. O'Connell, D. P., "Mid-Ocean Archipelagos in International Law", British Yearbook of International Law, vol. 45, p.1 (1971).
  5. Santiago, M. D., "The Archipelagic Concept in the Law of the Sea: Problems and Perspectives", Philippine Law Journal, Vol. 49, p.314 (1974).
  6. See also the related Exclusive Fisheries Zone, as codified in 1958. United Nations Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas, 1958.
  9. World Economic Forum.

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