Reclaim the Sea

Coming together demanding environmental and social justice with a global movement to reclaim our oceans and coastlines

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International instruments are usually in the form of Conventions and Treaties where:

● Conventions are agreements between countries covering particular matters, especially one less formal than a treaty; and

● Treaties are formally concluded and ratified agreements between countries.

There are a number of International Conventions that are relevant to the sea and the oceans. In time, we will include others that are missing:

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Under this Convention, States have the right to establish:

  • the breadth of territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles.
  • contiguous zone up to 24 nautical miles from the shoreline for purposes of enforcement of customs, fiscal, immigration, or sanitary laws.
  • EEZs up to 200 nautical miles from the shoreline for purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the sea-bed and of the sea-bed and its subsoil.
  • The resources of the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction are the common heritage of mankind.
  • International Seabed Authority: organize, carry out, and control activities associated with the exploitation of the resources of the international seabed.
  • A parallel system for exploring and exploiting the international seabed, one involving private and state ventures and the other involving the Authority.

What is also important to remember is that Part V of UNCLOS sets the specific legal regime of a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Specifically, paragraph 1b of Article 60 suggests that in its EEZ, the coastal State shall have the exclusive right to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of installations and structures for the purposes provided for in article 56 and other economic purposes. The State therefore, is managing its EEZ on behalf of its citizens. The leasing of an area of public domain, which had usually been of free access to all, often means the exclusion of others who would normally have access to that area, and this is the case with maritime development. Consequently, decision-making becomes more than ‘just’ a technocratic process but a political one, where normative politics are involved.

Barcelona Convention

The main objectives of the Convention are:

●to assess and control marine pollution;

●to ensure sustainable management of natural marine and coastal resources;

●to integrate the environment in social and economic development;

●to protect the marine environment and coastal zones through prevention and reduction of pollution, and as far as possible, elimination of pollution, whether land or sea-based;

●to protect the natural and cultural heritage;

●to strengthen solidarity among Mediterranean coastal States;

●to contribute to improvement of the quality of life.

Protocol to the Barcelona Convention on Integrated Coastal Zone Management

  • Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) entered into force 12 February 1978.
  • Article 4.3(e): “to promote the integrated management of the coastal zones, taking into account the protection of areas of ecological and landscape interest and the rational use of natural resources.”
  • 13 September 2010: Council ratified the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (Council Decision 2010/631/EU) and protocol entered into force the 24th of March 2011 – it is now part of EU law and  has binding effects.

The Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols are 21 Mediterranean, riparian countries (Albania, Algeria, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Montenegro, Monaco, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey) and the European Union.

Aarhus Convention

The Aarhus Convention is a particularly important one, as it requires contracting countries to be transparent and participatory when it comes to decision-making. It establishes a number of rights of the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. Specifically, the Parties to the Convention are required to make the necessary provisions so that public authorities (at national, regional or local level) will contribute to these rights to become effective. The Convention provides for:

the right of everyone to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities (access to environmental information). This can include information on the state of the environment, but also on policies or measures taken, or on the state of human health and safety where this can be affected by the state of the environment. Applicants are entitled to obtain this information within one month of the request and without having to say why they require it. In addition, public authorities are obliged, under the Convention, to actively disseminate environmental information in their possession;

the right to participate in environmental decision-making. Arrangements are to be made by public authorities to enable the public affected and environmental non-governmental organisations to comment on, for example, proposals for projects affecting the environment, or plans and programmes relating to the environment, these comments to be taken into due account in decision-making, and information to be provided on the final decisions and the reasons for it (“public participation in environmental decision-making”);

the right to review procedures to challenge public decisions that have been made without respecting the two aforementioned rights or environmental law in general (“access to justice”).


On Marine Protected Areas

A number of agreements exist which list (or inscribe) protected areas and are of international importance and can be found in details in the United Nations Environment Programme website ( Protected areas are not officially designated through these means, but through national legislation on protected areas, which varies from country to country. However, these international agreements aid in recognising and establishing those protected areas that are highly important, vulnerable, biodiverse or otherwise valuable.