The Earth has entered the anthropocene era; the era in which human activities have begun to have a significant global impact of the Earth’s climate and ecosystems. Covering more than 60% of the Earth’s surface, the oceans comprise a complex, dynamic and vast component of the Earth’s ecological system, second in size only to the global atmosphere. The oceans are a major provider of ecosystem services, food, mineral and other resources, and a major medium for global transportation and communication. Nevertheless, while once thought inexhaustible, unlimited and capable of supporting any human activity or use, it is now clear that the oceans are exhaustible and that increasing and intensifying human activities and uses are pushing the oceans to the limits of their carrying capacity.
The Law of the Sea Convention establishes a legal order for the oceans intended to ‘facilitate international communication, [and] promote peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilisation of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment’. However, particularly as regards areas beyond national jurisdiction, the law of the sea regime is fragmented both sectorally and geographically, leaving a large range of governance, regulatory, substantive and implementational gaps which serve to limit its effectiveness in securing a sustainable future for the oceans in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
The new reality of the context in which the legal regime for areas beyond national jurisdiction operates is one of increasing and increasingly unbridled human activity resulting in damage, both potential and real, from over-use, over-consumption and over-exploitation. This new reality has altered the fundamental balance between the context in which the law of the sea operates and the law of the sea itself. New legal developments are being called for to re-establish that equilibrium.
International Law | Law of the Sea
Date of this Version
Rosemary Rayfuse, "The Anthropocene, Autopoiesis and the Disingenuousness of the Genuine Link: Addressing Enforcement Gaps in the Legal Regime for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction" (March 2009). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2009. Working Paper 2.