UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) is the Law of the Sea convention of the United Nations (Montego Bay, 1982) and is a key convention at international level for the current regulations concerning the activities at sea. This quasi-universal convention lays down the rights and responsibilities of the states and the private actors in our seas and oceans and inter alia, handles the following topics:
• the boundaries of different sea zones (territorial sea, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, high seas);
• enforceable rights for ships, states, private companies or scientific institutions (e.g. right to innocent passage, to laying the cables, to build artificial platforms, to conduct research etc.,);
• basic rules for fisheries;
• the fight against piracy;
• the sustainable use of seas and oceans;
• the protection of marine biodiversity;
• international cooperation
This is a process for the global monitoring of the marine environment that is designed under the aegis of UNCLOS. The goal of this process is to evaluate on a regular basis the state of the marine environment via the regional workshops. Belgium organised the regional workshop for our regions in June 2012 and is a constituent of the Group of Experts that will prepare the first report by 2014.
Management of the biodiversity of the high seas ("BBNJ")
This informal working group deals with the various aspects of the sustainable management and protection of the marine biodiversity on the high seas (biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction or BBNJ). In the BBNJ working group, Belgium together with the European Union and many other States strives to develop a specific protocol under the Law of the Sea Convention. This protocol wishes to safeguard the biodiversity on the high seas by approving, inter alia, a strong legal framework for the marine protected areas. At present, the protection of biodiversity on the high seas finds itself in a legal vacuum whereby many species and habitats are the first victims.
In addition, several other marine biodiversity themes are handled by UNCLOS:
• international consultative processes: in the run-up to the negotiation of this resolution on BBNJ, a number of preliminary meetings such as the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea which every year examines a different theme are organised. Thus, the capacity development, the sustainable marine development or the renewable marine energy were all discussed;
• management of the fish stocks in the high seas: a protocol to protect the endangered fish stocks on the high seas is developed (United Nations Agreement for the Implementation Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks) under UNCLOS.