Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security


The South China Sea (SCS) has abundant biological diversity and natural resources that coastal communities rely on. Because of the ocean's interconnectedness and fluid nature, the marine environment's protection requires cooperation among coastal States. Therefore, this thesis aims to enhance regional cooperative projects and activities to preserve the SCS's shared marine environment. This thesis discusses the international legal framework for marine environmental protection and States’ general obligations to cooperate in protecting the marine environment. In response to the ocean's mobility and dynamic nature, this thesis inspects the application of the integrated management approach, including marine spatial planning, environmental impact assessments, and marine protected areas.

This study highlights how the cooperation among coastal States in semi-enclosed seas is emphasised in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This thesis then analyses regional practices in three semi-enclosed seas related to the protection of the marine environment, focusing on their guiding instruments, institutional arrangements, and cooperation with international organisations. Drawing on the examination of law, policies and existing practices in these semi-enclosed seas, a suite of specific recommendations is provided to enhance and scale up the implementation of regional initiatives for marine environmental protection in the SCS. These measures are, for the most part, undertaken on a soft-law basis.

With existing regional cooperative organisations and marine environmental protection programmes, SCS coastal States should focus more on practical measures to implement current regional projects, including precise roles that regional organisations can play and capacity-building programmes targeting the integrated management approach. Coastal States in the SCS can adopt action plans for thematic issues such as coral reef conservation, use demonstration sites to evaluate the implementability of such action plans, and scale up their implementation from transboundary cooperation, thus comprehensively forming an implementation mechanism in the South China Sea. This proposed implementation mechanism could enhance regional cooperation on marine environmental protection through coordinating regional and subregional projects, step by step unifying fragmented programmes into a regional collaborative structure.

FoR codes (2008)

1801 LAW



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.