As the law of the sea turns 30, the sea remains lawless

After three decades of implementing the United Nations Convention, the oceans and its resources are still unprotected.

Press Release Date: December 10, 2012

Location: Madrid


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Today is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) being signed, defining the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the oceans. On the date of this anniversary, Ocean is highlighting the fact that the current speed at which protection is implemented is too slow and it will soon be too late for flagship species such as sharks, sword fish and Atlantic bluefin tuna, and for habitats as essential as the deep-water corals.

According to the text of the agreement, the signatory countries have the “General Obligation” to protect and preserve the marine environment at the same time as exercising their right to exploit their natural resources. However, according to recent data, the protection of the oceans scarcely reaches 2%, and furthermore 87% of the fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted. If this continues, in addition to the effects of climate change, the contamination or destruction of habitats, the existence of a large number of species will be put at risk.

Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europa, states that “It is a sad state of affairs to commemorate the anniversary of the Law of the Sea when, following hundreds of agreements, most countries are still far from implementing effective policies to manage and protect the sea and its resources. Undertaking the commitments established under the umbrella of the United Nations should be a guarantee, but when it concerns the oceans a blind eye is still being turned to the responsibilities assumed under international agreements”.

UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) establishes the guidelines for trade, the protection and management of the sea’s resources. The agreement was adopted on the 10th of December 1982 by 119 states in Montego Bay (Jamaica) and there are currently a total of 164 signatory countries.