The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and the International Seabed Authority - Contributions to Responsible Ocean Management
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The world oceans cover 361.90 million square kilometres, representing 70.9% of the Earth’s surface. While about half of the oceans are part of coastal countries and under national jurisdictions, a total of 181.63 million square kilometres does not belong to any country or entity; or better, belong to everyone. Similar to the better known Antarctic treaty which regulates legally the international status of Antarctica, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adopted in 1982, regulates the international areas of the world oceans – called the ‘Area’ - in terms of navigational rights, territorial sea limits, economic jurisdiction, the legal status of resources on the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, the passage of ships through narrow straits, the conservation and management of living marine resources, the protection of the marine environment, a marine research regime and binding procedures for settlement of disputes between States. The Convention is an unprecedented attempt by the international community to regulate all aspects of the resources of the sea and uses of the ocean as the common heritage of humankind. UNCLOS outlines the areas of national jurisdiction as a 12 nautical-mile territorial sea, an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf. The international seabed Area is defined as “the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.”