The contribution of the law of the sea convention to marine environmental protection: 40 years of shimmering seas or high hopes dashed against juridical rocks?

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Marine Policy


The UN Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) was negotiated during the greatest upwelling of enlightened environmental thought in the 1970s. The critical backdrop to the negotiations that led to significant environment-focused provisions to protect the world's oceans was a period encapsulated by the ‘tragedy of the commons’ debate and emerging sustainability concerns, rights of statehood for newly independent countries, and recognition of the need to support the development aspirations of lesser-developed States. There were high hopes among commentators at the time that the LOSC would contribute to the orderly development of the world's ocean-related activities and the protection of the marine environment. LOSC drafters tackled head-on pollution as one of the most pressing marine environmental challenges. LOSC also paved the way for the development of more specific international instruments to address various marine environmental challenges. The 40-year mark of the text being concluded and LOSC open for signature is an appropriate time to reflect on the contribution of the LOSC to marine environmental protection.

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