Oceanic Law

June 7, 1974

Report Outline
Accelerating Demands on the Oceans
Tradition of Freedom of the Seas
Quest for New Oceanic Law Structure
Special Focus

Accelerating Demands on the Oceans

Forthcoming U.N. Conference on Law of the Sea

A united nations conference on the Law of the Sea will open June 20 in Caracas to seek an international agreement on control of the oceans and their vast resources. The success or failure of this conference may decide whether the wealth of the oceanic domain will be considered the common heritage of all mankind or an open realm for national exploitation on a first-come, first-served basis. Many observers fear failure in this effort to write a “constitution” for the seas and foresee resulting chaos—with powerful nations claiming vast expanses of the sea and seabed, and weaker nations grappling for a fair share of the ocean's wealth.

U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, at an organizational session in New York last December, warned: “The essential purpose of the conference is to establish a viable agreed legal basis for international cooperation without conflict and in the interest of all mankind.…It is urgent that we take the first essential steps toward international agreement as quickly as possible. Time is not on our side, and delay would be perilous.”

The conference faces a tangle of problems because its scope is so large and the pressure so great. On the agenda will be such matters as territorial limits, fishing rights, deep seabed mining, free passage through straits, offshore energy exploitation, marine pollution and conservation, scientific research, and a proposed international ocean regime. Each of these issues has generated fierce conflicts and created strange alliances. Wealthy maritime powers generally want maximum freedom of navigation and resource exploitation, while less-developed countries are divided, often depending on whether or not they have coastlines.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aquaculture and Maritime Policy
Jun. 10, 2022  Governing the Seas
May 31, 2019  Global Fishing Controversies
Oct. 2007  Oceans in Crisis
Jul. 27, 2007  Fish Farming
Nov. 04, 2005  Saving the Oceans
Aug. 02, 2002  Threatened Fisheries
Sep. 27, 1985  Whaling: End of an Era
Jul. 16, 1982  Troubled Maritime Industry
Jun. 07, 1974  Oceanic Law
Sep. 29, 1965  National Maritime Policy
Sep. 04, 1963  Fishing Rights and Territorial Waters
Oct. 05, 1955  Territorial Waters and the High Seas
Jul. 21, 1954  Plight of the Maritime Industry
Jul. 10, 1935  Merchant Marine Policy of the United States
Jan. 15, 1929  Sea Power and Sea Law
Jul. 24, 1928  Government Aid to the Merchant Marine
Oct. 17, 1925  The Merchant Marine Problem
Apr. 26, 1924  The New Merchant Marine Situation
International Law and Agreements
Water Resources