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United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes national sovereignty over marine resources lying within coastal waters. Although it exercises the greatest rights within 12 miles of the coast, lesser controls apply to waters of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The treaty was was drafted in 1982, adopted in 1983, and entered into force in 1994.

By establishing property rights that apply to the species and habitats found within coastal waters, the treaty provides countries with some incentive to better manage these resources.

It obligates Parties to protect and preserve the marine environment by cooperating regionally and globally, and to adopt laws and regulations to deal with land-based sources of marine pollution. It also provides a framework for establishing maritime zones and for regulating fishing and marine scientific research.

The Convention is noted for its comprehensive coverage of marine resource issues. Many of the provisions regarding the management of these resources are not binding, although the treaty also establishes binding procedures for settling disputes over natural resources lying outside of sovereign waters.

Nearly all of the participating states in Regional Seas programmes have claimed sovereignty over their marine resources.