We tackled first UNCLOS (1982 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea), an international agreement between 168 countries and the European Union establishing a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities. The idea of free trade in a global system (liberation of the seas) started back in 1945 by tackling three main points: Free trade, non-intervention, and freedom of the seas. China, for one, agreed to the first two points, but due to the desire to control the south China see, they objected to the final point, the freedom on the seas. Considering that 71% of the earth’s surface is water, and 96.5% of that water is oceans, it became clear that global governance was out of the question. However, there was a need to solve the sovereignty vs. free seas conflict, and as such three different models were investigated: Imposition (domination), common practices / international customs (general obligations), and conventions or treaties (written rule of law).  These models were exercised in history where the Iberians (Spain and Portugal) wanted state ownership of the water around them (Atlantic & Mediterranean), The Dutch believed in open seas, and Great Britain wanted a dual zone since they were practically an island and wanted to ensure their safety from invasion by another power from the sea. Their idea for a compromise was territorial section of the water of a certain distance, then the high seas. The territorial zone from the 18th century until the mid-20th century started at 3 nautical miles (the distance of a cannon shot). Since 1994 the 12 nautical mile limit has become almost universally accepted. Another contiguous zone of 12 nautical miles was added to protect against pollution and to limit immigration. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) nowadays extends to 230 miles beyond a nation’s territorial sea. The High seas are defined as the areas of the oceans beyond the EEZ.

The High Seas Treaty, also known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) is a legally binding instrument under the 1982 UNCLOS. The purpose is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s laid out 6 criteria for the US to sign the treaty, but the treaty did not adopt all of his criteria which then Reagan opposed. Then in 1983 he agreed to abide by all parts of UNCLOS except for the deep sea mining provisions. But in 1994 that criteria was met, and so President Clinton signed the agreement but it was never approved by the senate. The latest iteration of the treaty was adopted internationally on June 19, 2023 and was signed by the U.S. on September 20, 2023. The main principles of the High Seas Treaty are the following: (1) Protection beyond borders for pollution & fishing, (2) Cleaner oceans from chemicals and plastics, (3) managing fishing stocks, and (4) lowering the temperatures (global warming).

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On a different topic, as I mentioned to the attendees on Tuesday, I am planning to watch the webinar on the “2024 Presidential Elections: Looking Ahead” which will take place on Wednesday March 27 from 6pm – 8pm via zoom. If you want to join me, then I will get a room based on the number of attendees and we can watch it together, but if you plan to watch but want to do it on your own, then here is the registration link https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ryX6y19TSii29QdQKiw2ng#/registration.