United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

General Information

  1. Type: Convention
  2. Date of signature:
  3. Place of signature: Montego Bay, Jamaica
  4. Depositary:
  5. Date of entry into force: 16/11/1994

Category

Environment and products

Sub category

Maritime and Law of the Sea

Groups

UNS

What is it about?

Often called a “constitution for the oceans”, the 1982 Convention codifies rules regarding 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 and marine research. Its adoption supersedes the four Geneva Conventions of 1958, (Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, Convention on the Continental Shelf, Convention on the High Seas, and the Convention of the Living Resources of the High Seas). There are two implementation agreements related to this Convention. In 1994, an Agreement on the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention was proposed by the UN General Assembly to address certain difficulties with the seabed mining provisions. In 1995, the Agreement for the Implementation of the Law of the Sea Convention relating to the Management and Conservation of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was adopted, which set out principles for fish conservation and management and established that such management must be based on the precautionary approach.

Why is it relevant?

The 1982 Convention provides a universal legal framework for the effective and rational management of marine resources and their conservation for future generations. It codifies with precision the limits of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. Coastal states have the right to exploit and manage but also the responsibility to conserve all natural resources (fish, oil, gas, ores) found in the water and on or underneath the seabed and for up to 200 miles from their coast.

Additional Information

The 1982 Convention provides a compulsory and binding framework for the peaceful settlement of all related disputes. When no settlement can be reached, a dispute may be submitted before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which was established in accordance with Annex VI of the Convention, including the Seabed Disputes Chamber, The International Court of Justice, an arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VII of the Convention or a special arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VIII for one or more of the categories of disputes specified therein.

  • Agreement for the Implementation of the Law of the Sea Convention relating to the Management and Conservation of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. (New York, 4 August 1995)
  • Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (New York, 29 July 1994)
  • Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone (Geneva, 29 April 1958)
  • Convention on the Continental Shelf (Geneva, 29 April 1958)
  • Convention on the High Seas (Geneva, 29 April 1958)
  • Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas (Geneva, 29 April 1958)

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