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[June Theme Report] UNCLOS: The Law of the Sea

by Fiona Brown | 04-06-2023 02:50 recommendations 0

The United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was officially approved in December 1982, the fruit of over 14 years documenting and authorizing all laws and territorial mandates of the ocean (1). This process included collaboration from over 150 countries, culminating in a document that is still in effect today. Some of the purposes of UNCLOS include the determination of territorial ownership of ocean areas, designation of maritime zones along a country’s coastline, protection of natural habitats and defining areas where fishing, mining, and natural exploitation are permitted, and mandates regarding scientific research (2). These procedures are particularly relevant to Canada, as Canada has the longest coastline in the world, bordered by the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans (3).


One of the main governing bodies of the convention is the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, to which disputes and applications in terms of the convention may be submitted. Special chambers (committees) may be formed comprising of three or more Tribunal members, such as the long-standing Seabed disputes chamber, to settle claims and peacefully resolve conflicts. One of the major purposes of UNCLOS is to conserve natural marine ecosystems and protect undersea wildlife as seen in Part 13; Marine Scientific Research, promoting learning and educational initiatives while enforcing protocols to ensure protection of biodiversity. 


The mandates enforced in UNCLOS provide an interesting comparison with freshwater conservation. For example, the measuring of territorial zones under UNCLOS is done via low water lines, whereas freshwater watersheds often define protection boundaries of riparian zones along inland rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water via high water marks, where the water line is at its highest point. Through its contributions to defining areas of territorial ownership, encouragement of learning through scientific exploration, and enforcing conservation of marine habitats and wildlife, UNCLOS sets a valuable standard for other regulatory conventions of its kind.



1.   United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea. https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf

2.   Sovereignty and UNCLOS: Defining Canada’s Extended Continental Shelf. 2019. Government of Canada, Fisheries & Oceans Canada.


3.   Nature-based Climate Solutions. 2023. Government of Canada, Environment & Natural Resources. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/our-environment/nature-based-climate-solutions.html


 Photo credit: Fiona Brown

Photo of UNCLOS printed book and United Nations flag


  • Canada E-gen Ambassador Fiona Brown
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James Mentor

  • James Mentor says :
    Hello Fiona!! This is your mentor James.

    I see that you've focused on the UN convention regarding the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS)! To be honest, this is my first encounter with that term. Now I know that the convention is about detailed documentation of the political and environmental geographic representation of the oceans around the world. Knowing the detailed features and structure of the marine environment would be the pedestal for effective conflict resolution and ecosystem preservation!

    Thanks for writing such a meaningful report! Great work.
    Posted 28-06-2023 12:45

Yewon Mentor

  • Yewon Mentor says :
    Hello Fiona! This is your mentor Yewon.

    First of all, I apologize for the late comment.

    Through this report, you have introduced UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea!
    Even though I was aware of the existence of this kind of law, I didn't know the exact information about this, so your report was very interesting to me!
    I could learn a lot of detailed knowledge about UNCLOS and I think many ambassadors will also learn a lot from this!

    Thank you for your informative report! Great work!
    Posted 27-06-2023 18:31

Richard Adayi

  • Richard Adayi says :
    Have learnt something here ! Thanks Fiona
    Posted 13-06-2023 21:17

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