Doc. 8177

9 September 1998

The oceans: state of the marine environment and new trends in international law of the sea


Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities

Rapporteur : Mrs Liselott Blunck, Germany, Socialist Group


1998 is International Year of the Oceans. This report - which is part of the Parliamentary Assembly's contribution to this event - assesses the current state of the marine environment, both in the open seas, where the overall situation is acceptable, and in coastal areas, where significant threats are creating a potential danger.

It also analyses the recent evolution of international law in regulating the seas and preventing their pollution, and assesses the advantages and disadvantages of the latest trends in this field.

The Assembly puts forward a number of measures that could result in a better protection of the marine environment. The Assembly suggests, inter alia, that thought should be given to an integrated management of coastal areas and the rivers that flow into them. As to international law, the Assembly calls for a better implementation of existing treaties and assesses the advantages and disadvantages of "soft law" against binding international treaties, which can sometimes prove too burdensome to negotiate and manage.

I.        Draft resolution

1.       The Parliamentary Assembly welcomes the fact that the United Nations has declared 1998 International Year of the Oceans, and that the 1998 Lisbon World Exhibition (Expo '98) has chosen the oceans as its theme.

2.       It recalls the work it has carried out in this field since its inception, and notably Recommendation 1227 (1993) on oil pollution of the seas.

3.       It recalls the efforts carried out by the United Nations to draw up new international law on the seas. It welcomes the work done by its specialised agencies to draw up new treaties and set up new programmes that aim at preventing and fighting sea pollution. It welcomes the setting up of an Independent World Commission on the Oceans, which will help to develop new proposals for a better management of the seas.

4.       In the light of the above, the Assembly considers that it must contribute to this Year and refers to the parliamentary conference on the oceans organised by the Assembly in Paris on 19th March 1998, which considered, inter alia, the current state of the marine environment and analysed the most recent trends regarding international law in this field.

5.       Nearly three-quarters of our planet’s surface are covered by oceans. Oceans have consistently provided the world population with resources, and have been a primary way for peoples to communicate. Roughly two-thirds of mankind live within 80 kilometres of the sea. Yet the number of people whose activity has a direct impact on the oceans is even higher if one takes into account the population living in the draining basins of the world’s major rivers. These figures are increasing constantly.

6.       As a consequence, mankind’s influence on the oceans is steadily growing. Tourism, increasing urbanisation of coastal areas, the use of pesticides in agriculture, the release of sewage or industrial waste into the sea, rivers or the atmosphere, or the use of chemicals and antibiotics in aquaculture, to quote but a few factors, are all contributing to the deterioration of the marine environment. The effects vary significantly from zone to zone. Coastal areas bear the brunt of these changes, while arguably the open seas are less affected.

7.       It is estimated that land-based activities account for three-quarters of the oceans’ pollution load, while maritime transport generates roughly 12%, and dumping roughly 10%. One percent of the total pollution load seems to come from offshore mineral exploitation, in particular from the oil industry. It is worth noting that one-third of the pollution generated by land-based activities is carried to the oceans by the atmosphere.

8.       These increasing pressures on the marine environment are causing inter alia a deterioration in the quality of sea water, sometimes with public health implications, and physical effects on the coastal areas (increasing urbanisation, deforestation, etc.). In turn, this has lasting negative effects on the coastal and marine ecosystems.

9.       In the light of these facts, it is clear that coastal states cannot be held solely responsible for the state of the marine environment. On the contrary, all countries have an impact on it, be it larger or smaller, and therefore it is up to all of them to co-operate in order to manage the seas better by developing new policies to exploit marine resources in such a way as to guarantee the sustainable development of the oceans.

10.       There are a number of emerging problems concerning the oceans to which the international community should pay further attention. More should be known about the potential effects on the marine ecosystems of substances that are being released into the seas. The same applies to the effects that some waste might have on the molecular processes of marine organisms, and thus indirectly on mankind. On another note, technical progress is making it possible to drill in deeper areas of the oceans than before. Yet little is known about the potential environmental impact of such new activities.

11.       The Assembly welcomes the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea, which signals a major change in the regulation of the interaction between mankind and the seas. It is pleased to note that the convention mentions the protection and preservation of the marine environment as one of its main aims.

12.       Several international conventions have been adopted over the past fifty years that seek to reduce and prevent sea pollution. They concern mostly pollution from shipping activities, dumping and oil drilling, and thus cover only a fraction of the total sources of sea pollution.

13.       On the contrary, some of the regional conventions sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme have shifted gradually from pollution control to environmental protection and from there to development issues, thus leading the way to a more integrated approach to marine environment issues.

14.       The Assembly notes that, while this represents a major progress, it is also true that the negotiation of international agreements can be slow and burdensome, as is their implementation. Not enough seems to be done to monitor whether all signatories actually comply with the obligations set out in these treaties. Furthermore, a large number of escape clauses usually weakens the overall impact of a convention. In addition, little attention has been paid to the financial resources needed to implement them.

15.       The Assembly regrets that two recent Council of Europe treaties (European Convention on civil liability from activities dangerous to the environment and the draft Convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law), which aim at filling gaps in international environmental law, have failed to receive enough support from member states.

16.       Although it carries less weight and is not binding, so-called ‘soft law’ has proved to be a less burdensome procedure to reach broad agreements on how to protect the marine environment. ‘Soft law’ has provided both the international community and national and local authorities with valuable policy guidelines. Thus it has proved its worth as a source of inspiration for national legislation and local initiatives alike, and has paved the way for the negotiation of stricter and more binding agreements.

17.       Although science should provide one of the bases for most political decisions regarding the protection of the marine environment, this has often not been the case.

18.       The Assembly :

i.       invites all member states of the Council of Europe that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea, as well as the other relevant global and regional conventions sponsored by the International Maritime Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme;

ii.       stresses that the current state of the marine environment in many coastal areas calls for an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach to the problem, for the latter can no longer be dealt with from the point of view of pollution control only. Therefore, it is necessary to develop international guidelines on how to best manage the various aspects of coastal zone management which have an impact on the marine environment while aiming at their sustainable development. National and local authorities should thus be able to draw inspiration from them for their own legislation and programmes;

iii.       recalls that prospective parties to a new agreement should consider whether any new proposal regarding international legislation is actually feasible - financially and otherwise - before entering a lengthy and difficult drafting process;

iv.       recalls the need to assess the extent to which existing international treaties are being effectively implemented by their signatories;

v.       calls on the international community and Council of Europe member states in particular to consider 'soft law' as a plausible and efficient alternative to traditional international treaties, which can sometimes prove burdensome to negotiate and implement;

vi.       calls on the international community to acknowledge that the exploitation of the Oceans, the sea-bed and coastal areas must be carried out along the lines of a global sustainable development policy;

vii.       calls for stricter measures regarding the use of chemicals in aquaculture and their disposal into the seas;

viii.       calls for a better dialogue between scientists, managers and politicians, so that science can gain importance as the basis for political decisions concerning the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

ix.       calls on the international community, and on the Council of Europe’s member states in particular, to fund research on the emerging risks that oceans are facing, including global climate change and new pollutants which might have an effect on the molecular processes of marine organisms;

x.       calls on the international community, member states and oil and mining corporations to fund research on the impact of deep-sea drilling on the marine environment;

xi.       calls upon member states and, where appropriate, the European Union, the FAO and other international organisations to engage in consultations with a view to creating a European Maritime Agency to help develop a coherent vision of European maritime policy, especially as regards the development of an integrated approach to coastal area management.

II.        Draft recommendation

1.       The Assembly recalls its Resolution ... (1998) on the oceans: state of the marine environment and new trends in international law, its Recommendation 1079 (1988) on the protection of the North Sea against pollution and its Recommendation 847 (1978) on European action to prevent oil pollution of waters and coasts.

2.       It is convinced that there is room for further synergies between science and technology on the one hand, and political decision making on the other hand, with a view to improving the protection of the marine environment.

3.       The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.       open the draft European Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law for signature and ratification by the Organisation's member countries, and recalling that the Assembly has unanimously supported this initiative in the past;

ii.       call upon the Council of Europe's member states to sign and ratify the European Convention on civil liability from activities dangerous to the environment;

iii.       consider setting up a European Maritime Agency - in co-operation with the European Union and, where appropriate, other international organisations - to promote a coherent vision of European maritime policy, especially as regards the development of an integrated approach to coastal area management;

iv.       propose to member state governments a timetable of priority measures, inter alia:

      a. support, at the forthcoming Buenos Aires conference on climate change (2-13 November 1998), for the creation of an ecological league for the protection of the oceans with provision for NGOs, a precautionary approach, and clear, binding quality objectives;

      b. pooling, within the framework of a single world organisation, all international efforts in the field of environment and development;

      c. introduction of uniform measurement programmes giving comparable results;

      d. establishment of an international monitoring system ensuring cost-free access to information on Internet at all times and also at the local level;

      e. presentation of a report on the state of implementation of present environmental protection agreements, their supervision, and their validity;

      f. progressive elimination of development programmes conflicting with the aims of marine conservation in the fields of shipbuilding, fisheries, agriculture and business, or definition of standards to be met by such programmes; information and aid to developing countries should be provided when necessary to achieve this purpose;

III. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur



The Blue Planet

State of the marine environment : a generalised assessment

Current major issues and concerns

Emerging problems

Changing perceptions and perspectives

Evolution of international legal regimes

Shifts in the direction and scope of ocean-related studies

Major recent steps reflecting the increased concern for marine environment

Scientific uncertainties

Anticipatory approach and minimising risk

Rationale for action

Support from science to policy initiatives and resource management

New trends in international law


Annex :       Major multilateral agreements and programmes relevant to the protection


1998 is the International Year of the Oceans1. This event will help draw the world’s attention to the problems faced by the Oceans and foster the search for possible solutions. These problems are manifold, and the solutions often controversial. It would be unwise to say that all will be well after 1998. Granted, the International Year of the Ocean is not, cannot be, a panacea. Yet, it is a call for all those who have some degree of responsibility over the Oceans, which is to say all of us, and the people’s representatives in particular, to give thought to these issues. It is also a call for us to try to reach the broadest possible consensus on two issues : what is wrong with the Oceans and what we should do about it. Insofar as the International Year of the Oceans can help us do this, it will be a success, even if it only takes us a few steps ahead in the quest for a better management of the seas.

Ocean and sea matters are not new items on the Assembly’s agenda. It is possible to trace its many statements on such issues several decades back. To quote a few examples of its activity in this field, let it be said that the Assembly has consistently called for better protection of the marine environment; it has been among the pioneers promoting the ‘polluter pays’ principle ; it has called for greater co-operation in managing fish stocks; and it has considered the problems arising from the exploration and exploitation of the sea—bed. Sometimes, it has acted as a pioneer in this field. On other occasions, it has used its power to relay and amplify the signals emitted by other, more specialised fora. It has also reacted to international crises, such as massive oil-pollution resulting from a tanker wreck. And, to draw from what the Council of Europe is best at, it has even promoted new international treaties in order to bridge legal gaps. In 1971, for instance, it put forward a draft treaty on banning the discharge of certain pollutants into the sea.

Unfortunately, some of these calls have gone unheard. There is growing evidence that the situation in many of the world’s coastal areas is deteriorating rapidly. We should read this as a clear sign that the current institutional arrangements are not working well enough. Given the complex nature of these issues, it is high time for us to find new ways of managing coastal areas and the high seas differently.

Thus, the Parliamentary Assembly wishes to take this opportunity – the International Year of the Oceans – to renew its call for more action and better co-ordination in marine affairs, and to lend its support to the excellent work carried out by the Independent World Committee on the Oceans. For this purpose, and taking into account the need for a multi-disciplinary approach, three of parliamentary committees have been asked to table reports and recommendations in a joint and co-ordinated exercise. The Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities has analysed the state of the marine environment and assessed the most recent trends in international law of the sea, and come up with its proposals. The Committee on Science and Technology has also come up with proposals relating to its field of expertise, as have the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (through its sub-committee on fisheries) and the Sub-committee on the Cultural Heritage. This report will thus focus on sustainable development and environmental issues, even if this means foregoing some aspects, such as fisheries policy, that, albeit closely intertwined, fall within the scope of the other committees.


The oceans cover 71 per cent of the surface of our planet. This distinguishes our globe from all other bodies in the solar system. Pictures from space emphasise earth as the "blue planet", with the oceans as the most dominant feature of its surface.2/

It was not always like that. The earth was formed some five billion years ago. Initially, due to prevailing high temperatures, all water was in form of vapour surrounding the gradually cooling planet, until the first rains started to precipitate and the primordial ocean was born. Two hundred fifty million years ago all scattered blocks of continental crust were in a virtually single landmass (Pangea) surrounded by a huge ocean space (Panthalassa). Over time-scales measured in millions of years, Pangea broke up due to geological dynamic forces (spreading of sea floor and plate tectonics) into pieces, which became the constituents of present continents. The continents and ocean basins gradually took their approximate present shape only about 1.5 million years ago. The Mediterranean basin started to be formed about 65 million years ago. The formation of present ocean basins and continental masses was associated with changes in circulation of ocean currents, sea-levels and climate. This process still continues but at pace almost imperceptible on time-scale to which we are normally used.3/

The chemistry of the ocean was gradually changing as more and more "salt" was dissolved in it from the crust until it reached its present composition.4/

The oceans and the atmosphere are constantly in motion, and without their interaction life as we know it would be impossible. Atmospheric motions shape the globe's patterns of weather and climate. In return, the oceans provide the atmosphere with heat and moisture. These processes range widely in time and space, from tiny eddies5/ lasting but a few seconds to variations in global climate fluctuations which extend over centuries.

Life appeared in the watery environment sometime between 2 and 3 billion years ago and had a decisive influence on the chemical composition of the oceans and the atmosphere, and thus created conditions for life, as we know it today on the terrestrial environment. The early atmosphere lacked oxygen. It originated as "by-product" of photosynthesis, a process by which plants convert inorganic substances (carbon dioxide and water) into the carbohydrates, the first building blocks or organic matter. Oxygen in the atmosphere, and the subsequent development of the "ozone shield" which protects life from too intensive ultraviolet radiation of the sun, set the scene for the evolution of present terrestrial animal forms.

Life in the oceans, like that on the land, is based almost entirely upon photosynthesis. Phytoplankton, the microscopic algae which float freely in water are the most important plant life forms in the oceans. They are the primary producers of organic matter. All animal forms of life ultimately depend on organic matter furnished by this primary production.6/

Oceans have been frequently described as "a vast desert, desperately short of nutrients and with living things spread most thinly through them". This blunt description, dismal as it may seem, nonetheless provides an accurate summary of what is known of marine productivity and biomass.7/


Man started to use the oceans in very early days of his existence on the planet. Mussels and crabs collected along the shores, or fish caught in nearshore waters, were essential sources of food for the earliest human communities living in the vicinity of oceans. With development of various technological skills, the use and exploitation of oceans and their living and non-living resources broadened and today the oceans are an irreplaceable asset providing cheap transport of goods and people, important amount of food, and opportunities for recreation. Moreover, oil extracted from seabed is among the most notable energy sources required by modern societies, freshwater obtained from seawater is growing in importance, and - last but not least - oceans serve as the ultimate sink for waste resulting from a variety of human activities.

As a consequence, the oceans, including the habitats and ecosystems8/ they support, continue to be exposed to a multitude of increasing pressures. The use of marine and coastal areas for subsistence, commerce and recreation is increasing and there is growing demand for both renewable and non-renewable marine resources. The greatest pressures stem from population growth, urbanisation, industry, agriculture, fisheries, transport, energy production and recreational activities, clearly signifying that land-based activities predominate.

Ever increasing parts of the coast and coastal habitats fall victim to "development" in form of spreading urbanisation, industrialisation, aquaculture and tourism. Growth of coastal resident populations and tourists continues, with their liquid and solid waste finding way into coastal waters in ever increasing amount. The global increase in the quantity of such waste in many places outstrips the pace at which benefits are derived from technical measures, such as alternative or improved disposal practices. Waste of industrial origin entering the marine environment, although curbed in many parts of the world by improved technological processes and better waste management practices, is globally still on the rise. The world-wide use of agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilisers in particular), and their residues entering the oceans, are on increase. Fisheries are in shamble due to grossly mismanaged approach to their exploitation. Maritime transport is probably the only sector which, as a whole, did not increase significantly its pressure on the health of the open oceans in the last decade, but navigation-related activities had significant environmental effects in coastal areas.

Although the nature and intensity of pressures from human activities vary between and within coastal areas, open ocean, and different regions, the main effects of these pressures can be generalised as:

Degradation of water quality. Pollution9/ reaching from point and non-point sources seriously affects the quality of coastal marine waters, particularly in enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, most lakes, rivers, estuaries and groundwater systems. Toxic chemicals, nutrients, pathogens, oxygen demanding wastes, sediments (silt), petroleum hydrocarbons and litter are among the most relevant pollutants. Degradation of water quality due to pollution is one of the main cause for degradation of water-related ecosystems. Polluted waters represent also considerable threat to public health (e.g., by exposure during recreational activities, by ingestion of contaminated water or eating contaminated seafood).

Damage to ecosystems and loss of habitats. These are quite common and widespread in all segments of coastal and marine environment exposed to pollution. The most affected systems are those in marine waters adjacent to the coast. However, pollution is not the only culprit. Physical alteration and destruction of natural coastlines (e.g., by land reclamation, deforestation, coastal constructions), seabed mining, destructive fishing practices, artificially changed water courses and hydrological regimes (e.g., by large scale irrigation schemes, erection of dams and creation of reservoirs, changed land-use practices) often lead to serious physical degradation of coastal and marine habitats with concomitant changes in their ecosystems. Wetlands, mangroves and seagrass beds, and coral reefs are particularly vulnerable.10/ The increasing incidence of eutrophication11/ of coastal waters and estuaries, with toxic alga blooms frequently associated with eutrophication, are telling signs of spreading ecosystem degradation.

Resource (over)exploitation. Decline in marine fisheries resources, mainly due to overfishing and fishing with inappropriate techniques (e.g., by non-selective fishing gear and by using poisons or dynamite), poor resource management, and questionable social and economic measures, are of high concern. Over-harvesting of tropical coastal resources is of a particular significance in many developing countries. In most cases, the severe depletion of these resources can be traced to subsistence activities of coastal communities with high rate of population growth. Such communities frequently still maintain a hand-to-mouth existence tightly dependent on locally and freely available natural resources.12ornamental trade)./

Introduction of non-indigenous species. Non-indigenous species13/ introduced intentionally or accidentally in an alien environment often seriously disrupt ecosystems, may adversely affect economic activities (e.g., fisheries), and may cause toxic and human health effects.

The situation in near-shore coastal areas, in enclosed and semi-enclosed seas in particular, indicates a further general worsening during the last decade. The heterogeneity of these areas results in a wide variety of conditions under purely natural circumstances. Therefore, it is not always possible to rigorously define the baseline from which deviations due to human activities should be assessed. Nevertheless, considerable progress was made in this field thanks to improved scientific insight and the quality of assessments of many regional and local marine areas during the last decade. Extension of drilling into deeper waters and expansion of fisheries increased the pressure on open shelf areas14/ in the same period. The situation for semi-enclosed regional shelf areas remains largely unchanged, although many inshore areas (e.g., bays and estuaries) continued to decline and several new concerns have come to light. On the other hand, recent new information has alleviated some previous concerns (e.g., about the state of pollution in the Arctic), and others have been addressed by human interventions.

Open oceans are less exposed to human pressure than the waters adjacent to the coast. They remain contaminated with a variety of substances derived from human activities (e.g., some heavy metals, persistent organics, artificial radionuclides)15/ at levels that are unlikely to give rise to adverse effects on living resources or amenities. Aside from the degradation of commercially exploited fisheries resources, open oceans are still in a generally healthy state and there is little evidence that their condition has changed significantly during the last decade.

Debate about the relevance of anthropogenically introduced radionuclides into the marine environment looms still large in mind of general public and, to a smaller extent, politicians. Although threats from accidental releases of radionuclides which may find their way into the marine environment can not be ruled out, today among the various categories of marine contaminants radionuclides probably pose the least concern from a scientific standpoint.


Impact of land-based activities, pollution in particular

Marine pollution from land-based sources has long been recognised as a major problem in the ocean environment. More recently concern has been extended to all land-based activities that degrade the marine environment, of which pollution is often the principal component. This section focuses on such pollution within the broader context of activities in coastal areas, recognising that pollution control will have to be accompanied by control of human activities in the coastal zone if sustainable development is to be achieved.

The growing impact of various land-based activities on marine and coastal environment is considered as currently the single major issue on which to focus attention. The problem is, of course, not new. Concern about marine pollution originating from sources on land has been expressed long ago by scientist and recognised by policy-makers alike. However, data made available during the last decade clearly indicate a general increase in levels and impacts, first in the vicinity of major sources, and later even in places far removed from such sources.

By comparing the amount of pollutants reaching the oceans from land-based sources, including those transported by rivers and atmosphere, with the amount originating from maritime sources, it is obvious that the former constitute the predominant pollution load of the oceans. According to somewhat generalised estimates land-based sources are responsible for about 77 per cent of that load (44 per cent through run-off and direct land-based discharges; 33 per cent through atmosphere). The remaining amount is coming from maritime transport (12 per cent), dumping16/ (10 per cent) and offshore exploration and exploitation of mineral resources, oil in particular (1 per cent).

Pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources is the oldest form of contamination affecting the marine environment. Since man has settled in the coastal zones and along rivers the marine environment became his natural repository for all type of wastes. Initially such wastes consisted mainly of degradable domestic wastes, sewage in particular. Due to the volume and nature of these wastes they were easily absorbed and neutralised by the sheer vastness of the seas and their eventual local impact passed mainly unnoticed. However, with the changing land-use patterns due to the increasing number of people living in the coastal zones, and particularly with the development of industries and the contemporary massive use of various agrochemicals, the domestic wastes combined with the generally less innocuous industrial and agricultural wastes gradually became the major imminent threat to the marine environment. Although the oceans are vast, and their waste-receiving capacity is today recognised as an asset, which may be used for the disposal of certain types and quantities of waste, their ability to assimilate these wastes without significant degradation is not limitless.

The major sources of pollution originating on land vary from country to country and from region to region, depending on the nature and intensity of specific activities along the coastal strip and its hinterland. Activities associated with human settlements, agriculture, industry and tourism can be identified as the major contributors to the pollution load of the marine environment, and the relative importance of the load's various components shows a significantly different pattern in different parts of the globe.

Increased use of fertilisers in agriculture, and releases of sewage and certain type of industrial waste, lead to increasing concentration of nutrients in coastal waters causing their eutrophication. The elevated nutrient levels in coastal waters and estuaries promote the growth of algae ("algal blooms") leading to turbidity and reduced light penetration. Eventually, the algae die and decay, resulting, inter alia, in oxygen depletion,17/ fish kills and noxious odours. Such a pattern is repeated in coastal waters all over the world receiving increased nutrient inputs from land. The apparently increasing occurrence of toxic algal blooms may be related to eutrophication. These are ingested and accumulated by shellfish and could lead to very serious health consequences.

A growing world-wide problem is marine debris (litter) of terrestrial origin, notably "plastics", that finds its way even to relatively remote areas. Poor management of solid waste is the main source of the problem. Aside for being an aesthetic nuisance and ruining the amenity value of many coastal areas, litter may have also considerable ecological impact.

The direct discharge of wastes from land-based sources, including through rivers, is not the only, and for many pollutants not even the most important route by which they are reaching the marine environment.18/ As is apparent from research carried out during the last decades, the atmosphere is a significant, and in some cases dominant, pathway by which potential pollutants are transported from continents to both the coastal and open oceans.19/ The atmospheric residence time20/ of most synthetic organic compounds and some forms of metals is long and consequently, atmospheric transport and deposition of these compounds dominates all other sources in open ocean regions.

The oceans are not static. Their waters are mixing, the surface layer is in constant and dynamic interaction with the atmosphere, generating down- and up-welling of ocean water from and towards the surface. The ocean currents are transporting several orders of magnitude larger volumes of water than the largest rivers and are carrying pollutants with them in the process. Owing to the mixing of the oceans pollutants introduced at one point, particularly the persistent non-degradable types, can spread very far from their point of origin without any respect for the man-conceived boundaries.21/

While some coastal zones are still in a pristine state, the severity of the problem posed by the wastes from land-based sources is today obvious even to the laymen. Many of the coastal waters, lagoons and estuaries which only decades ago teemed with life and were a source of pleasure and food, look today aesthetically ruined, destitute, drained of life and an obvious health hazard. Scientific evidence corroborates these observations. Well documented studies confirm that significant damage, sporadically even irreparable, was done by the pollutants from land-based sources to the marine life and the quality of the marine environment in general, and that marine pollution is indeed a serious public health problem.

As examples for the impact of pollutants from land-based sources the following could be cited in three broad categories of impact areas:

Impact on public health:

-       bathers in sewage polluted waters are frequently afflicted by gastro-intestinal problems (diarrhoea); ear, eye, and        skin infections; or respiratory diseases;

-       seafood, particularly the filter-feeder22/ molluscs (mussels, oysters), is increasingly becoming unsafe or unpalatable for human consumption;

-       mercury contaminated seafood caused more than 2 000 cases of intoxication and the death of 43 people, since 1953, at Minamata in Japan;

-       outbreaks of cholera and infectious hepatitis are occurring with increasing frequency among coastal populations, claiming many deaths; recent studies suggest that even inland a substantial proportion of all cases of endemic infectious hepatitis is caused by the consumption of virus contaminated raw molluscs;

Impact on ecological systems:

-       birds feeding on sea-fish are in many regions decimated by residues of organohalogen compounds;

-       the death of thousands of seals, in 1988, along the coasts of the Baltic, North and Irish Sea may have been aided by the suppression of their immune system caused by PCBs and other associated compounds;

-       enrichment by nutrients (eutrophication) and other organic carbon substances is strongly suspected as being the single most important factor contributing to plankton blooms occurring with increasing frequency in coastal waters world-wide; oxygen depletion which follows in many cases is responsible for mass mortality of fish and other marine organisms in affected areas;

-       there is circumstantial evidence linking pollution with fish diseases (e.g., ulcers, fin rot) frequent in many parts of the world;

Impact on the economy:

-       lost revenues in domestic and foreign tourism associated with polluted coastal waters and degraded coastal amenities are significant and potentially catastrophic for some local, national and regional economies;

-       epidemics associated with polluted coastal waters and marine products, aside from their impact on human health, are a serious setback for economies of affected regions, as shown by the 1973 outbreak of cholera in Italy, and its more recent appearance along the Pacific coast of Latin America;

-       economic losses in commercial fisheries in areas where fishing or mariculture has to be restricted or abandoned due to public health considerations, or where fish stocks decline due to destruction of habitats or breeding grounds;

-       decline in the quality and quantity of fishery products is particularly serious economic problem for many developing countries where artisanal fisheries provide the largest part of animal proteins for local consumption which, for economic reasons, can not be easily substituted from other sources.

Status of fisheries

Next to the impact of land-based activities, the state of marine fisheries is probably an issue causing the most widespread concern. The facts are relatively clear and can be summarised, in somewhat generalised way, as follows:

From the 1950s onward, the ever-growing harvesting of most important marine fish stocks can be attributed largely to increased fishing pressure.23/ However, since the late 1980s, the rate of increase in marine capture fisheries has been (with the exception of increases in 1993 and 1994) close to zero.

In 1995, the total world production of fish, crustaceans and molluscs reached a record level of almost 113 million tonnes. Marine fisheries contributed the largest part: about 75 per cent (about 85 million tonnes). Of this amount about 50 million tonnes is available for direct human consumption.

The limit to catches of most commercially exploited species seems to have been reached some years ago due to biological constraints.24/ An analysis prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of yields from marine fisheries has shown that, in the mid-1990s, landings of about 35 per cent of the stocks studied were declining, 25 per cent were stable at high level of exploitation, and 40 per cent were on increase. In contrast, in the early 1950s, 55 per cent of the stocks were under-exploited, but by the end of the 1960s, none of them were in this position. A corollary of this situation is that the number of stocks requiring management have increased from very few in the early 1950s to over 60 per cent at present time.

The above trends clearly indicate that there is little scope for increasing catches by increasing fishing efforts. Further expansion of fishing efforts will only result in lower catch rates. In case of open ocean fisheries, this would also lead to high unit costs of fishing. The major exceptions to the commercial constraints are where stocks are found both in exploitable concentrations and are of high commercial value (e.g., tunas).

Fishing pressure is not the only reason for changes in fish stock abundance. A number of important stocks appear to be particularly susceptible to the impact of natural changes, such as those attributable to El Nino.25/

Marine fisheries are plagued by a host of interlinked problems. Among the major problems are: overfishing, by-catch and discards, degradation of coastal zones and large-scale changes in climate conditions. Marine pollution, aside from local and secondary effects (e.g., those caused by eutrophication), is not considered a major problem for most commercial fisheries26/.

Overfishing, i.e. fishing at rates which endanger the maintenance of stock, is among the most severe problems presently facing marine fisheries. It results in reduced catches from an overfished stock, excessive economic costs in harvesting, and reduced economic benefits from fisheries. Overfishing has reached serious levels in many coastal waters, particularly in regions with high population densities, high local demands for fish and scarce employment opportunities, but it has occurred also in many high-sea fisheries.

A number of factors militate against the restoration of overfished stocks. Often, there is a reluctance of governments and fishery industry to accept the short-to-medium term social and economic costs involved. This difficulty is frequently compounded by lack of financial and human resources to formulate appropriate management actions and a weak commitment to international Cupertino through regional fisheries bodies. In many developing countries a major problem is the poor alternative employment opportunities for those working in the fisheries sector.

In absence of effective action by governments and resource users it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that overfishing and long-term decline in production will continue. As a consequence of such situation, it has been estimated by FAO that, by 2010, the contribution of marine capture fisheries to the supply of human food could fall from its present 50 to about 40 million tonnes a year.

By-catch and discards27/ occur in most fisheries and it is estimated that globally in commercial fisheries they amounts to 27 million tonnes annually. They are the result of a number of factors, which include the multi-species nature of many resources, the difficulty of targeting specific species in many fisheries, the resultant capture of fish which have no value to the fisher and, in fisheries subject to quota or minimum size restrictions, highgrading28/. By catch does not affect only fish but a number of other group of animals (invertebrates, reptiles, sea-birds, mammals). Reduction in by-catch presently focus on development of selective fishing gear to separate the target species from others. The practice of discarding is a serious threat to fisheries conservation and a considerable waste of human food.

The problem of excessive use of fishery resources has three main causes: (i) many of the world fisheries stocks continue to be exploited on the basis of free access (this is particularly true of high seas fisheries); (ii) many countries has chosen to subsidise their domestic fishing industry for a variety of reasons but with the same effect (making fishing more profitable than it would have been)29/; and (iii) some management systems (e.g., total allowable catch, closed seasons) which may unintentionally encourage overcapitalisation of fishing industry. The present system could be summarised as waste of labour, capital and fish resources. Tomorrow's additional problem may be the shortage in fish markets.

Aquaculture as source of environmental problems

Aquaculture is seen as a means to alleviate pressure on wild fish stocks. It is among the fastest expanding branch of fisheries. Between 1984 and 1994, it grew at an annual rate of about 9.4 per cent, providing at the end of this period 25.5 million tonnes valued at US$ 39,000 million, and comprising 21.7 per cent of total world fisheries production. Asia contributed more than 90 per cent of the total world aquaculture production.

However, aquaculture is often a source of environmental problems. The construction of aquaculture ponds usually entails the sacrifice of some natural habitats, such as wetlands, lagoons and mangrove forest. Residues of various chemicals (e.g., fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, feed additives, soil and water treatment agents) are frequently discharged in significant amount into coastal water, along with wastes from the cultured organisms and unconsumed feeds, causing eutrophication. Deliberate or accidental introduction of non-indigenous species into the wild may affect natural ecosystems. Aquaculture systems sited in open waters, such as the reef flat or lagoon, impede water circulation or obstruct boat traffic. Employees of aquaculture farms may be harmed by exposure to some pesticides (e.g., organophosphates). There is also a potential risk to consumers through hypersensitivity to drug residues or emergence of antibacterial-resistant intestinal microflora.

Most countries do not have adequate regulatory controls for use of chemicals in aquaculture. The current practices are already showing difficulties in international trade relations arising from drug residue monitoring and enforcement requirements. Evaluation of the risks associated with aquaculture chemicals is most seriously hampered by lack of reliable data on quantities used and on methods of their application.

Threats from introduction of non-indigenous species

Deliberate introduction of non-indigenous species has been practised for commercial, sport, or aesthetic reasons since man's early travels. While many of these species have significant beneficial uses, some others introduced by accident or intentionally proved to be harmful to local ecosystems and human health, and caused considerable economic losses.

The coastal zone is one of the areas most vulnerable to non-indigenous species and usually represents their point of entry. The most common way of their transfer is as contaminants in agricultural products, diseased plants and fish stocks, bulk shipping materials, ships' ballast waters, sewage. Releases of commercial aquarium and aquaculture stocks are also frequent.30/

The harmful effects of non-indigenous species range from wholesale ecosystem changes31/, extinction of indigenous species, human and ecosystem health effects, to more subtle changes. Current control technology is insufficient and haphazard. With global travel and transport on increase, significant impacts of non-indigenous species could be expected to occur well into the 21st century. The negative economic impact could be in the range of many billion dollars.

Reduction in marine biodiversity

Existing knowledge of geographic and other variation in species richness is heavily biased and remains staggeringly imprecise. Of all currently described species32/, it has been estimated that somewhat less than 15 per cent are marine. However, at the level of phyla (i.e., the broadest classification units of animal and plant kingdoms), the oceans show a far greater diversity than the terrestrial environment: there are 43 marine phyla and only 28 terrestrial ones, 15 of them exclusively marine.

The biological diversity of the oceans is certainly grossly underestimated. Recent research, particularly in deep seas previously considered comparatively void of life, suggest that the total number of marine biotic diversity could be considerably greater, and even rival the diversity found in tropical forests.

In spite of some well documented extinctions or near-extinctions of a number of species (e.g., the Mediterranean monk seal, certain species of giant clams in Southeast Asia, and sea turtles in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia) caused by habitat destruction or over-exploitation, the reduction of marine biodiversity seems less severe and acute than the problems facing the terrestrial life forms.

Inadequate integrated coastal zone management

Conflicts arising from use of resources and amenities are major problems associated with social and economic development. They are particularly evident in coastal areas where the lack of clearly defined ownership of, and rights of use, of common property resources create serious competition among the often conflicting interests of public, private and even government structures. Severe degradation of coastal ecosystems and habitats is a too frequent consequence of the uncoordinated and sectoral nature of many "solutions" designed to resolve these conflicting interests.

Development of integrated coastal zone management plans is today accepted as the proper framework in which the coastal (marine and terrestrial) environment could be adequately protected. Unfortunately, for most of the coastal areas such plans do not exist, and even if they do, they are not implemented consequently. The most obvious reasons for this is a lack of appreciation of the economic benefits provided free of costs by natural environment and the economic losses associated with environmental degradation.33/

Expansion, building and maintaining coastal navigation facilities is emerging as a special problem to be solved within integrated coastal zone management. The 21st century will see new classes of vessels with drafts far in excess of today's ships. These ships will require substantially deeper and wider navigation channels, anchorages, turning basins and docking facilities than now exist. Unfortunately, most ports are not located in areas of natural deepwater, but are found in estuaries, river mouths and deltas, coastal areas that are naturally shallow, areas of high siltation, and represent some of the most environmentally diverse and productive marine, estuarine and wetland systems.

Pressure from tourism

Tourism is being considered as a "renewable" source of income for coastal communities. The term "ecotourism" has been coined to reflect the possibility of developing tourist practices that inflict no significant harm to the environment. Unfortunately, in most instances, economic considerations outstrip ecological concerns. The expansion of tourism along the coast entails the construction of infrastructure and other facilities, inevitably causing destruction of coastal habitats, if not their obliteration. More tourists means more waste generated, and in many parts of the world this is discharged, untreated or inadequately treated, into the marine environment. The presence of tourists also increases the pressure on locally available fish and shellfish resources.

Coastal tourism is increasingly important economic sector of many countries and a major contributor to their gross domestic product.34/ To a large extent tourism is not much different from other economic sectors. It contributes to environmental stress by: stimulating coastal population growth, sewage discharge, elevation of nutrient and pesticide levels in runoff (e.g., from golf courses), coastal habitat destruction (e.g., construction of marinas), etc. Economic incentives are high to site hotels and other tourist facilities as close as possible to attractive locations regardless of environmental and aesthetic damage they may cause. The creation of markets for seafood and curios can stimulate over-exploitation of indigenous species. Damage from reefwalkers, snorkellers and divers, and boat anchors and propellers, is a common problem. On the positive side, well-regulated tourism development can be a major contribution to the sustainable development of coastal areas. A pristine marine environment is a major tourist attraction, creating a strong motivation for sound environmental management. Furthermore, tourism can directly subsidise the cost of environmental management.35/


Changes in climate conditions

The expected change in global climate is probably the most popular issue recognised widely as an "emerging issue" with potentially global impact on the marine and coastal environment.

Large-scale changes in global energy budget and climate conditions may significantly alter oceanic conditions and processes over a period of a number of years:

The change in the flow of major current systems may modify the distribution and composition of marine ecosystems with far reaching ecological and economic consequences. For instance, the distribution and abundance of commercially fished stocks may be profoundly altered, as shown by recent effects of El Nino, the advance of Antarctic waters into the south-west Atlantic, and the reduction in salinity of the Baltic.

Diminution of polar ice cover coupled with stratospheric ozone depletion may lead to major alterations in the spectral characteristics and intensity of incident light which, in turn, may affect the timing and abundance of primary production. Ecosystems at higher geographic altitudes are potentially vulnerable to such changes although it is very possible that the effects of enhanced ultraviolet light on aquatic organisms has been overestimated.

One of the potential consequences of climate change is an increase in the number and intensity of extreme events, such as droughts and floods, number or magnitude of hurricanes36/. The consequences of such events to marine systems may be considerable, in particular damage to nearshore (e.g., coral reefs) and intertidal ecosystems37/. The 1997 El Nino event is causing notable problems on both sides of the Pacific, and probably even wider.

Losses of low lying coastal habitats through changes in sea level, ambient wave regimes and patterns of coastal erosion are quite plausible.38/

A large proportion of the world's population lives close to the coast39/, and many major industries are coastally sited because of the requirements for both cooling waters and access for ships. Sea-level change will lead to inundation and potential loss of coastal settlements, while flooding of coastal industrial and power generating plants will increase the risk of direct pollution.

New classes of marine contaminants

During the past decades, most of the attention was directed at substances which, when released into the marine environment, had or were suspected to have direct or indirect toxic effects on individual organisms exposed to them. The potential effects of substances which may affect the composition and functioning of ecosystems and populations of marine organisms (e.g., population behaviour and reproductive effects), or influence molecular level processes (e.g., carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, teratogenesis, disruption of endocrine functions40/) received less attention. The effects ascribed to the currently occurring concentration of such substances in the marine environment are in most cases inconclusive, although there are indications that these effects may indeed exist and could have a potentially adverse effect on human health through consumption of seafood.

Substances of particular concern are those released from aquaculture. Most of them were originally developed for use on terrestrial food crops and in livestock production, and were not adequately tested for effects on marine environment. Although intended to enhance aquaculture production, the use of these substances may have adverse environmental effects (e.g., eutrophication, effects on non-target organisms and ecosystems).

Accumulation of persistent organic compounds in deep sea sediments

The accumulation of persistent organic compounds in deep sea sediments and organisms is gaining attention. If such contamination continues, which is likely to occur due to persistence of the compounds involved, the deep sea may be the first global biotic environment facing long-term damage.

Exploitation of deep sea-bed

Drilling for oil and gas - presently the most important commercial sea-bed activity - has been in the past largely restricted to relatively shallow nearshore and continental shelf areas. Currently, the world's deepest oil well is at a depth of about 1,100 meters, but exploration drilling has been carried out even at about 2,700 meters. However, recent technological developments now enable exploration and exploitation of oil and gas deposits in even deeper waters.

Deep-water drilling is associated with a number of increasing hazards relative to drilling in shallow-waters. Contamination from drilling, including from the release of oil and gas, could affect large offshore areas of the oceans and harm their ecosystems. A deep-water blow-out could be difficult to control quickly and thus to reduce the ecological effects, which may assume near-catastrophic proportions.

Research interest is being shown in the recovery of gas hydrates which, according to some estimates, amount to twice the amount of organic carbon found in all recoverable and non-recoverable oil, gas and coal deposits on earth. However, the exploitation of these resources may be associated with serious environmental risks due to release of large quantities of methane.

It is possible that in 30 to 50 years, as conventional deep-water reserves of oil and gas are depleted, the oil companies will turn to the development of gas hydrates41/ found in considerable quantities under deep ocean floor. Producing gas hydrates at the sea floor would result in an environmentally clean fuel, certainly in comparison to oil, coal, or oil shale that have an immense environmental impact during production and combustion.

Ocean as potential carbon dioxide repository

When considering "global change", the focus is on societal impacts and time-scales of perhaps a few hundred years at most. On this time-scale the primary concern for both the climate system and for human derived impacts is on reservoirs that exchange carbon dioxide fairly rapidly. These include the atmosphere, the ocean, and the terrestrial biosphere.42/

On short time-scales the fraction of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere is largely determined by the portion of the ocean that mixes sufficiently rapidly to be exposed to the changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is now estimated that only approximately the upper 500 meters of the ocean can store excess carbon. Since the growth of marine organisms is not limited by the availability of dissolved inorganic carbon, this increase in inorganic carbon in itself will not change marine productivity. Of course, when time-scales beyond a few hundred years are considered, then interactions between the biogeochemistry of the ocean and sedimentation processes become important as well.

The stabilisation, and eventual reversal, of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere is still decades away. In search for solution to increasing levels of this important greenhouse gas, the possible use of oceans, as a suitable repository of carbon dioxide generated by use of fossil fuel, is gaining new advocates.

A recent study examined the current state of knowledge and the various schemes considered for injecting carbon dioxide directly into the deep ocean and thus short-circuiting its gradual absorption from the atmosphere into the ocean. The conclusion reached by the study was that - aside from technical, economic and legal problems - the serious gaps in understanding of relevant natural biological, geochemical and physical processes do not allow for a meaningful assessment of the feasibility and desirability of injecting carbon dioxide into the depths of the oceans.


During the past decade, considerable changes have occurred which shifted the focus of many previous perceptions about the oceans or placed them in different perspective.

While the environmental problems of the marine environment, and their causes, remained largely unchanged, their effects were felt in ever broader geographic areas and with ever heightening intensity. The vastly increased incidence and extent of human activities and interventions affecting the marine environment became more obvious. Many of the traditional uses of the sea and coastal areas, and the benefits derived from them, became undermined and demonstrated that nature simply can not absorb excessive human impacts without significant alterations.

Advances in science underscored the important role of the oceans in shaping the earth's climate and the possible implications of predicted climate change on the oceans, coastal areas and their resources. Deep-sea research revealed hitherto unknown forms of life and rich biodiversity outstripping the richness of terrestrial environment.

It became obvious that, in the long term, the human pressure on marine and coastal space and resources, as well as on the overall quality of the marine environment, can not be alleviated by sectoral technological solutions applied to marine environment only.

Scientific arguments for an integrated approach to protection and management of river basins and associated terrestrial and marine environments were advanced for decades, and even practised successfully by some countries.43/ The signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in 1982, was the first major, albeit timid political step towards this approach. Some progress was also made in various regional and sub-regional programmes for the protection of marine environment which recognised that management of development activities in coastal areas and in their hinterland is among the most promising solutions for problems of the marine environment. However, only in 1992, the adoption of Agenda 21 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - UNCED, followed in 1995 by adoption of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, were the crucial political turning points. Both of these programmes recognised the inseparable links between the marine, coastal terrestrial and associated freshwater systems. They also explicitly asked for the resolution of conflicting interests in marine, coastal and river-basin space and resources by integrated resource management, conducted within the framework of environmentally sound economic development.

The demographic, historical, cultural, economic and environmental interdependence of coastal and marine areas, and their hinterland is nowhere so obvious as in places where large rivers enter the sea. Some of the oldest, largest and most prosperous commercial and cultural centres are at places where freshwater and marine systems meet. Rivers were, and still are, the avenues through which traffic of people, goods and ideas flew from the coast deep into land, and vice versa. River-basins and estuarine flatlands provided the fertile grounds for production of food and various raw materials supporting the coastal inhabitants and fuelling their activities.

Unfortunately, the accelerating environmental problems of oceans, coastal strips and river-basins are still largely perceived as so specific that they are treated separately. Political considerations contributed considerably to this state of affairs. While marine environment and its resources were for centuries considered as something "in common", belonging to anybody able to use it, freshwaters and coastal areas are regarded as sovereign "property" of individual countries, or at best as a commodity which had to be shared only with neighbouring countries.

The rapid increase in coastal population, at a rate higher than the rate of global population growth,44/ is today accepted as among the primary causes of the present day problems facing the oceans. For a number of years, linking population growth with environmental problems was resisted, mainly for ideological and political reasons. However, UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), and particularly the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), resulted in a long overdue change in political thinking. They acknowledged that there is an inextricable link between population growth, environmental degradation, material wealth and social progress. The Cairo meeting admitted the urgency of slowing population growth, particularly in countries with the highest growth rate, but at the same time emphasised that this goal is best accomplished by meeting urgent social needs and by a more equitable use of resources.45/

Last but not least, during the last decade there was a growing common interest in the problems of the oceans. It recognised that:

- the major sources of the problems are in the sphere of coastal social and economic development;

- for the solution of these problems marine affairs should be treated as integral part of coastal socio-economic development; and

- new approaches and policies would have to be adopted to resolve the apparent conflict between development aspirations and possibilities offered by physical and biological environment.


For centuries the international legal approach to the oceans reflected the political and economic interests of two predominant uses of the sea: navigation and fishing. International environmental law and practices were based on the principles of unfettered national sovereignty over natural resources and absolute freedom of the seas beyond the three-mile territorial limit. Such an approach followed from widely accepted ideas contained in Grotius' Mare liberum, published in 1609.

At the turn of the century, there were relatively few multilateral or bilateral ocean-related agreements. Those that existed largely addressed issues concerning boundary waters. The principle that water "shall not be polluted on either side to the injury or health or property on the other" was first pronounced in the 1909 USA-UK Boundary Waters Treaty. The 1911 Treaty for the Preservation and Protection of Fur Seals seems to be the first international agreement concluded to protect commercially valuable species. The 1931 Convention for Regulation of Whaling was the first in the series of treaties concluded to manage whaling activities. The important principle that countries have responsibilities for environmental damage to foreign countries that is caused by transboundary effect of pollution originating within their borders was first clearly spelled out in the 1930s by the Trail Smelter Arbitration between Canada and the United States.46/

The preservation and conservation had emerged as conceptual frameworks for management of natural resources in the 1940s, and resulted in a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements and arrangements dealing with fisheries.47/ Modern agreements regulating and facilitating navigation date from the same period.

Only during the last half of this century has it been gradually recognised that the world oceans are more than shipping lanes and fishponds, and may need to be protected and regulated for a variety of multiple and potentially conflicting uses.

Marine pollution as environmental issue gained attention only after World War II. Initially the attention was focused on petroleum hydrocarbons. With increasing maritime transport of petroleum hydrocarbons, the soiling of beaches by oil residues from ships' operational releases and tanker accidents became conspicuous and attracted the attention of media, general public and politicians alike. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil was negotiated and signed, in 1954, to address the problem. During the 1960s, the Convention was followed by negotiation of several additional conventions relating to interventions in case of oil pollution casualties, and to civil liability and compensation for damage by oil pollution.48/

Concerns about contamination of the planet by radioactive wastes originating from proliferating nuclear weapon tests lead to the 1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water.

The preparations for the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment gave a major boost for development of additional international legal instruments. The protection of wetlands and sites considered as the natural heritage of mankind were covered by two global conventions.49/ The need to protect the oceans from pollutants other than oil gained recognition. Dumping of such pollutants was regulated by a global convention adopted in 1972.50/ As the sources and effects of pollutants entering the sea from land-based activities were considered highly region-specific, the first regional conventions dealing with their control were negotiated and adopted.51/

The debate at the Stockholm Conference revealed a deep division between industrialised and developing countries over the issue of whether environmental protection and economic development were compatible. Nevertheless, the concern about the risk of environmental harm prevailed and the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment adopted by the Conference led to a fundamental shift in international environmental law.

Since 1972, the scope of international agreements has expanded significantly; from bilateral transboundary pollution control to global pollution control; from preservation of designated species to conservation of ecosystems; from control of direct emissions to comprehensive pollution control regimes; from agreements that take effect only at national borders to ones that constrain activities and resource use within national borders.52/ Most notably, there is not a single example in which the provisions of earlier conventions have been weakened; in all cases they have been strengthened or their scope has been expanded.

Two advancements were particularly notable in the post-Stockholm period: the protracted but ultimately successful negotiation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)53/ and the proliferation of regional agreements.

Three main factors contributed to development of UNCLOS, the only comprehensive global ocean-related agreement:

bold and innovative concepts of ocean space were advanced, along with proposals for the management of this space on a systematic rather than the traditional sectoral approach;

the ecological integrity of the ocean, and the power of man's intervention to affect this integrity, was gradually gaining recognition; and

the resources of the ocean lying outside the sovereignty of individual nations were increasingly regarded as the "common heritage of mankind", and thus requiring new types of institutional and legal arrangements for their management.54/

UNCLOS, frequently called the "constitution for the oceans", provides the overarching international legal framework for use and protection of the oceans. It is premised on the fact that the problems of the oceans are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole. It balances the rights and obligations of coastal states with the rights and obligations of all states to use the oceans and their resources in a rational way. In an offshore zone extending 200 miles (the "exclusive economic zone"), it grants the coastal states control over living and non-living resources, scientific research and environmental protection, subject to specific responsibilities. The Convention requires all state parties to conserve marine living resources, and to protect the entire marine environment. Provisions on pollution control cover all sources of pollution. Other issues covered by the Convention include, among others, maritime boundaries, navigation and overflight, development and management of deep-sea minerals, piracy, illicit drug traffic and dispute settlement.

Although the prevailing trend in the late 1960s and early 1970s was to deal with the problems of the oceans through global agreements, experience demonstrated that bilateral and regional arrangements can be very effective in dealing with specific problems of a particular region, including the exploitation of resources in that region. Followed on the heels of the successful completion of negotiations which led to the 1972 Oslo Convention, a host of regional agreements was adopted with focus on protection of marine environment from pollution.55/

The eight regional agreements negotiated under UNEP's sponsorship were in a form of "comprehensive framework conventions", with articles of quite general nature which in themselves would have been of little practical relevance. However, the conventions are supplemented with several protocols containing provisions for concrete measures expected to be implemented by the contracting parties.56information exchange, and technical assistance; adoption of procedures for determination of liability and compensation for damage resulting from violation of convention or its protocols; reporting on measures adopted in implementation of conventions at national levels./ Moreover, each of the conventions is associated with periodically revised "action plans" and trust funds established by the contracting parties to finance the action plan.

The latest in the impressive series of international environmental agreements recognise that an effective protection and management of the oceans must be closely linked with the development on land, and that in this context the coastal zones should be considered as an integral part of the system to be protected through rational management. They reflect the generally accepted concept that sound economic development must be environmentally sustainable and are concerned about how to do it. The issue in 1992 that divides countries is an equity one: how to finance environmentally sustainable economic development for present and future generations.

Nowhere became this issue more manifest than during the negotiation of agreements dealing with subjects which strongly polarise the views and interests of developing and developed countries. For instance, during the negotiation of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the common goal to be achieved by these convention was not questioned. However, sharp differences arose about how to achieve these goals in view of priorities assigned to these goals by different countries. The question of financial assistance for implementation of the conventions by developing countries was a particular bone of contention.

The inability (or unwillingness) of developing countries to meet their obligations without considerable financial assistance was recognised and - realising that these conventions can not be implemented without their cooperation - the developing countries made their participation conditional on availability of additional financial resources enabling them to meet the conventions' obligations. Anticipating such problems, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was launched, in 1971, by the World Bank and the countries highly interested that the conventions are effectively implemented. GEF serves as a financial mechanism that provides grant and concessional funds to developing countries for projects aiming to protect the global environment, with focus on projects relevant to the CBD and UNFCCC.57/

Aside from financial problems associated with the implementation of the international conventions, but closely linked with them, is the widespread noncompliance with the accepted obligations. The existing international agreements are full of escape clauses and have no real "teeth" needed to control many of the crucial problems in an effective way, particularly if countries choose to ignore their responsibilities, frequently in the name of national sovereignty.58/ The binding clauses of too many agreements are, in practice less binding than it appears, and in most instances, the implementation of internationally agreed programmes or fulfilment of obligations stipulated by the agreement, can be monitored only on the basis of national reports. Even when violations against agreed arrangements are detected, compliance with the agreed measures can be enforced only under very specific conditions.

The review of the evolution of international legal regimes would be incomplete without reference to "soft law", the host of various codes, guidelines, resolutions, decisions, declarations, strategies, programmes, and action plans promulgated by intergovernmental fora. Although they have not the same weight as the formally negotiated and adopted legally binding agreements, they are substantially advancing the protection of the oceans and use of their resources. In many instances, "soft law" represents the first stage towards consensus on more detailed and possibly binding international norms. It also serves as source of inspiration, if not an actual model for binding national laws and practices. Guidance provided by soft law is particularly appropriate where objectives may be achieved by a different combination of measures or where varied environmental or socio-economic conditions warrant different solutions. They may usefully spell out a variety of effective response options without calling for uniform approaches.

The Action Plan for the Human Environment, adopted by the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment, and the Agenda 21, adopted by the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference on Environment and Development, are examples of soft law covering the totality of global environmental problems in an all-embracing fashion. Most other documents falling in this category are either restricted to a certain geographic area59/ or to some specific subject60/.


Until a few decades ago ocean-related science was dominated by main branches of natural sciences, with exception of sporadic incursion of professionals with background in legal matters. The initially quite sectoral approach of natural sciences to the study of the oceans was gradually relinquished during the second half of this century. New vistas have been opened which only an interdisciplinary approach could make possible. With the growing awareness about the enormous economic and geopolitical significance of oceans and their resources, today all branches of "hard" and "soft" sciences found their legitimate interest in ocean-related studies. In fact, it is hard to imagine that without a concerted contribution from various scientific disciplines the oceans could be fully understood, appreciated and turned to the benefit of mankind. The first fruits of the "marriage" between ocean-related natural and social sciences are already discernible, but time when the full potential of their interaction will be exploited has yet to come.

Some of the key issues requiring close cooperation of natural and social sciences include:

Identification of anthropogenic factors affecting natural systems. Population dynamics, coastal development and land-use practices are clear examples. Emphasis should be on quantifying activities (e.g., sewage discharge, agricultural runoff, fishing) likely to have the most prominent effects on the natural systems.

Assessing impacts, including estimating the economic costs of degradation in the natural system and the expected benefits from management measures, i.e., a sort of cost-benefit analysis. Initial analysis should focus on the social and economic sectors likely to experience the largest impact, such as: fisheries, aquaculture, public health, recreation, tourism.

Identification of feedback loops and estimation of their possible positive or negative impact in economic terms. For example, extensive coastal eutrophication associated with coastal development and runoff might reduce the suitability of coastal areas for aquaculture and increase the likelihood of plankton blooms. This may place a premium on the capture fishery and increase pressure on wild stocks.

Valuation of ecosystem services61/ and biodiversity. Many valuable services provided by natural systems have no "market value" and are frequently sacrificed through ignorance. The services provided by coastal wetlands as nurseries for fisheries, natural pollution filters, and storm buffers, is a well known example that has particular relevance to coastal reclamation activities. The loss of unrecognised "keystone" species may lead to collapse of valuable ecosystems and tangible economic losses.

Large scale global studies of physical, biogeochemical and biological ocean phenomena and processes are now planned or underway. They are setting the stage for a new generation of interdisciplinary ocean studies. Satellite and in situ sensing systems that are being planned and developed provide an opportunity to set future ocean studies efficiently on wide-ranging temporal and spatial scales. However, in spite of such positive developments, and the considerable broadening of knowledge about the oceans during the past decades, the present status of ocean sciences is, in general, inadequate. It lags far behind the status of many other branches of science which were more successful in capturing the attention and imagination (and attracting the money) of policy-makers.



The expanding pressure of human activities on oceans and their resources, and the increasing deterioration of marine and coastal environment during the last decade, contributed to the growing awareness that the current trends would have to be countered and reversed through concerted action at political, social, economic, technical and scientific levels.

Initiatives at global political level seem quite impressive:

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) adopted the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development (Agenda 21). Chapter 17 of the Agenda is devoted to "protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas, and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources".

In 1993, three global conventions entered into force with considerable implications for management of marine affairs: (i) the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; (ii) the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD); and (iii) the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In 1994, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), recognised by UNCED as "the international basis upon which to pursue the protection and sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment and its resources", entered into force.

In 1995: (i) the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA/LBA), (ii) the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and (iii) the Agreement for the for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, were adopted.

In 1996, the Protocol to London Convention was adopted which, once in force, will replace the Convention on the Protection of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter.62/

The UN General Assembly designated 1998 as the Year of the Ocean.

The broad scope and number of political initiatives undertaken in the last decade in support of ocean affairs, as epitomised by the above list, is remarkable. Unfortunately, in reality, most of these initiatives fall short of their declared goals. Their tangible achievements and impacts on environment may become discernible only in coming years, after the ringing rhetoric of international meetings is separated from actual deeds.63/

Progress in development of science-based programmes during the last decade may seem also quite impressive. Four major global programmes directly relevant to the protection of the marine environment have been launched:

In 1986, the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) launched a complex and ambitious International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), with an overall objective "to describe and understand the interactive physical, chemical and biological processes that regulate the total Earth system, the unique environment that it provides for life, the changes that are occurring in this system, and the manner in which they are influenced by human activities".64/

In 1989, the Assembly of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) decided on development of a comprehensive Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). One of its main goal is to ensure, through systematic observations, data and information, support to improved decision-making and resource management.65/

The Global International Water Assessment (GIWA) is a recently (late 1997) approved programme supported by the GEF. Its overall objective is to develop a comprehensive strategic framework for the identification of priorities for remedial and mitigation actions in international waters.66/

A Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) is planned by IOC, UNEP and IUCN, to promote research, monitoring and assessment of coral reefs and related ecosystems, and to provide information for more efficient and effective management for their long-term conservation.

As in the case of political initiatives, the listed science-based programmes and their declared goals may seem impressive. However, in reality, they are not implemented as originally conceived, mainly due inadequate political and financial support.


Most decisions affecting the environment are made on the basis of socio-economic considerations and are heavily influenced by political factors. Nevertheless, wise management of oceans and their resources requires accurate information, and science is the source of this information. Consequently, the results of science should be seen as economic assets, with high intrinsic economic value in the context of environmental management and policy initiatives.

Scientific methods, with appropriate hypotheses and experimental designs, are the rational basis to estimate uncertainties in our knowledge and the probability of risks associated with certain management and policy decisions. Raising research standards to reduce the risk or error, and the level of uncertainty, implies requirements for data and financial resources which would often be unrealistic. Therefore, management decisions dealing with actual problems or perceived risks will often be necessarily taken with less than complete and accurate information. Otherwise a management strategy aiming at the minimum possible risk may imply research costs beyond the value of the resource planned to be protected. It is equally important that inevitable management schemes are not delayed in the anticipation of more information becoming available.

Unfortunately, the application of science in management decisions has a poor record. The blame for such situation is, to a large degree, on scientists because most frequently they do not involve the potential users and beneficiaries of science-based programmes (i.e., managers and policy-makers) in designing of these programmes and in defining the type and form of information they would expect from them.

Only a tiny proportion of existing scientific knowledge is transferred to managers and policy-makers, and much of this is not applied, or not applied properly. The products expected to emanate from some large scale multidisciplinary programmes (e.g., GOOS and IGBP) may not be translated and used efficiently to guide management actions.

Science is a tool for discovering how and why things work as they do. In this process a large amount of data and information has to be digested and interpreted. Aided by computers, scenarios and models are being constructed on the basis of available data and used as powerful tools for predicting trends in environmental processes. The predictive capacity of models is limited by the margin of uncertainty associated with data and information used in their construction. Environmental and social research can be extremely multifaceted, and rarely covers all relevant factors. Therefore, the conclusions and results of scientific research are valid only with a degree of certainty. The general public (and not only the general public) expects from science "certainty" and "precision", and does not understand that uncertainties are inherent and unavoidable characteristics of scientific research and that reduction of uncertainties is one of the central aspiration of science.


All human interventions carry potential risks. Risks of environmental and resource degradations are intrinsic to all endeavours associated with social and economic development. Therefore, caution should be one of the cornerstones of actions in order to avoid unwanted consequences or limit their probable occurrence. The concept of precaution requires an anticipatory evaluation of the possible consequences of actions or activities in the formulation of management objectives. It requires the management and regulatory authorities to take preemptive action whenever there is an unacceptable risk of severe and irreversible damage to human beings and welfare, and by extension, to resources and environment, even in the absence of certainty about the impact or clearly demonstrable causal relationship. When there is doubt about the risk, preventive and remedial action would have to be taken, erring on the safe side, but with due consideration for social and economic consequences of such action.

The need for precaution in management is reflected in two main concepts: the precautionary principle and the precautionary approach. The precautionary principle has suffered from a lack of precise definition and slack usage, frequently leading to unreasonably extreme interpretations and disregard of economic and social costs. It has therefore developed a strong negative undertone. The precautionary approach, which implicitly recognises that there is a diversity of ecological as well as socio-economic situations requiring different strategies, has a more acceptable "image" and is more readily applicable to management of coastal and marine environment problems. The precautionary approach may seem "unscientific" when judged by standards of classical scientific thinking. Yet, interaction between natural and social sciences is the only available tool that can, using insight into the significance of uncertainties involved, provide a rational basis for assessing the potential risk against the backdrop of potential social and economic benefits which may justify taking the risk.

Assessment of risk, based on scientific approach which takes into account the degree of uncertainties involved, frequently does not correspond to the risk as perceived by general public, managers and policy-makers. Unfortunately, in political decision-making, the perceived risk often weighs more than the risk identified by scientific methods.


Degradation of water quality and water-based ecosystems, and unwise exploitation of marine resources, create a series of local and regional "crises". Depletion and devastation of the economically most important fishery resources and devastation of some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes due to ill conceived development schemes, are just the most obvious examples demonstrating the need for action.

Time is a crucial factor in solving problems. It will take time to change many unsustainable development patterns causing or contributing to the present problems besetting the marine and coastal environment. Experience has shown that the consequences of inaction, in terms of human suffering, social disruptions, foregone economic opportunities and the cost of undoing the harm caused to the resources and the environment, will usually outstrip the human and financial resources needed to practice a sustainable use of natural resources.

Many of the problems are of local nature and action is primarily a national responsibility. Nevertheless, it would be illusory to believe that anything short of regional and global commitment would provide the means needed to avert the plight of economically disadvantage countries. Unless these countries are helped, the effects and consequences of seemingly local problems will soon be at the doorstep of the world as a whole.

Solving sectoral problems, or problems which appear to be limited to relatively small geographic regions only, does not guarantee a long-term solution. Likewise, solving problems of freshwater bodies in isolation from problems of recipient marine areas, will soon prove to be a shortsighted approach. The rational for seeking solutions through integrated management based on drainage basins67/ is built on several facts and arguments.

There is a clear ecological interdependence between all elements of a drainage basin. They are linked through complex interactions of atmospheric, geological, physical, chemical and biological processes. The interactions are commonly characterised by movements of water, and substances contained in the water, soil and living organisms. For instance, changes in land-use practices in river basins (e.g., land clearing related to agriculture or deforestation), or in hydrological regimes (e.g., damming rivers) may radically change sediment and nutrient flows into coastal waters and thus affect coastline dynamics, habitat conditions, extent of wetlands, productivity of recipient waters, etc.

The social and economic interdependence of human activities associated with a given drainage basin is obvious. As examples for this interdependence, it is sufficient to observe the intensive exchange of goods and services between coastal regions and their hinterland along great river systems.

The transboundary nature of problems found in "international waters" of many drainage basins requires cooperation of riparian countries in finding common management objectives and instituting compatible policies and programmes to accomplish such objectives. Rivers, lakes and marine waters are frequently the borders between countries. The sharing of such rivers, lakes and marine areas, and the use and management of their waters and biological resources, requires joint action of riparian countries in order to safeguard their ecological integrity and rational exploitation. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation on management of "international waters" is usually covered by numerous bilateral and multilateral conventions, treaties, agreements and programmes. Although most of them deal with specific sectoral problems only (e.g., transport, water use, fishing rights, pollution control), development of programmes covering the marine and freshwater components of large drainage basins in a complex and integrated way, is gaining momentum in a number of regions.


The prime requirements upon good management systems is that they are acceptable to users, provide the basis for further improvement as more information becomes available and, where the likely impact of the activity regulated by the management scheme is uncertain, give priority to conserving the natural systems and their productive capacity. Environmental management is often most acceptable to users of the managed resources when it is devolved to the lowest practicable level. In this context, local communities an authorities, including local interest groups (e.g., fisherman, industries) may well have an important role in designing and implementation of management measures.

There is a multitude of management- and policy-related issues with broad spectrum of specific requirements on science, such as: new basic and applied research; baseline studies and systematic observations/monitoring of changes; analysis and interpretation of data; assessment of impacts, risks, costs, benefits, and uncertainties; scenario and model building; forecasting trends. Without research addressing these issues, the science applied to solution of specific practical problems remains fragmented and without a coherent framework. In this context, the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), together with other large scale global observing systems (i.e., the Global Climate Observing System - GCOS, and the Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), are of key relevance.

Due to predominantly external origin of many environmental threats to the oceans and their resources, solutions would have to be found, to a large extent, outside of strictly "maritime sectors" (e.g., fisheries, tourism to a certain extent). Integrated management of coastal areas and river-basins adjacent to them provides a suitable framework for resolution of conflicting environmental, economic, social and cultural interests. Such solutions should be based on trade-offs between different uses of the same coastal and maritime space and resources. A critical comparison of the risks, benefits and costs embodied in such trade-off, and the reversibility of impacts which may result from decisions, should be the basis for policy-making decisions. Whenever possible, the comparison should include valuation of alternative resource uses.

Underpinning the management of coastal areas is an understanding of the interactions between socio-economic and natural systems. Research may be required, therefore, into ecological functions (e.g., studies of overall "carrying capacity", impact reversibility), resource dynamics (e.g., to distinguish between the natural variability of renewable resources and changes caused by human impact), applied research (e.g., to develop cheap and effective monitoring schemes, the application of economic valuation techniques), socio-economics (e.g., to identify the anthropogenic factors within current and proposed economic activities), economics (e.g., design and impact of economic incentive systems), and institutional issues (e.g., legal and property frameworks and requirements).

The integration of issues reviewed above into a comprehensive analytical framework that combines assessment of human practices, ecosystem-wide effects and management options on a drainage basins level (i.e., river basins, coastal areas and adjacent coastal waters) should be the ultimate objective of any viable and meaningful integrated coastal zone management programme. Unfortunately, the methodology for achieving this integration is today only in its infancy, and there are no adequate internationally recommended or agreed procedures to be followed systematically.

Large scales and ubiquitous eutrophication remains an issue of concern, particularly in the context of the stimulation of increased nuisance caused by algal blooms in coastal zones. The debate about whether there has been a global increase in the frequency and location of such bloom continues. Increasing agricultural production based on the enhanced use of fertilisers could reasonably have been expected to provide increased fluxes of nitrogen and phosphorous into coastal areas through runoff. However, the declining use of phosphorous compounds in detergents has resulted in some decline in phosphorous inputs to the ocean. One of the questions in this debate is whether there has been an increased nitrogen/phosphorous ratio in runoff and whether phosphorous limitation of algal growth is becoming more common than previously. Coupled to this is the question of whether phosphorous limitation has consequences in the metabolism of algae that results in the formation of toxic substances.

There are significant uncertainties about the global status of coral reefs. Most reefs have never been studied by scientists, and there is a critical lack of information. The reefs most accessible to scientists are also those most likely to suffer anthropogenic impacts. Consequently, there may be a bias to over-estimate the extent of global reef degradation. There are no generally accepted indicators of the ecological health of reefs and very little information about temporal and geographic scale of their natural variability. Scientific understanding of the effects of anthropogenically elevated nutrient input on coral reef ecosystems is far from complete. There is a lack of reliable baseline data, and a lack of understanding of coral reef processes.

There have been some suggestions of an increase in ciguatera and harmful algal blooms in reef and lagoon systems resulting from eutrophication and, in case of ciguatera, from an increase in habitat suitable for benthic dinoflagellates as a result of decreased coral cover. However, reliable data supporting these views do not exist.

Improved data-bases and information are needed to improve present fisheries management through policy formulation, design of management plans, implementation of these plans and the monitoring of their implementation. Science associated with stock assessment and monitoring of fisheries overall effects on the integrity of marine ecosystems is clearly inadequate.68/ Mechanisms for recovery of depleted commercially exploited fish stocks are poorly understood. Research is required to help formulate biological objectives, targets and constraints regarding the protection of habitat, the avoidance of fishing that impairs the reproductive capacity of fish population and reduces the effect of fishing on non-target species. Research in socio-economics, economics and sociology would have to be combined with biological research for the formulation of management objectives.

The harvesting of marine mammals presents special problems. Aesthetic and ethical objections are expressed to it by a large body of public opinion, particularly in a number of developed countries. The continuing recovery of most marine mammal populations has raised the issue of whether near-total ban on harvesting should be continued or limited harvesting should be allowed under carefully controlled conditions. Much more research is required to understand the consequences of these alternatives and their impact on the maintenance of balanced ecosystems. The public also needs to be better informed about the extent of recovery of populations in question, and its effect on ecosystems, to permit a more rational and less emotional approach to discussion of the cost and benefits (aesthetic, economic and social) of the alternatives.

Aquaculture is an area with growing requirements for scientific input to assist in solving, for instance, questions associated with: introduction of non-indigenous species; development of pest-resistant and fast growing varieties of cultivable species by genetic engineering and other techniques; and the effects of chemical substances used in aquaculture on non-target organisms. Evaluation of environmental and human health risks associated with use of chemicals in aquaculture should be more vigorously pursued in order to provide a sound scientific rationale for regulatory control measures. Research is also needed to develop safe alternatives to chemicals which should be replaced with environmentally benign or less harmful substances.

"Large marine ecosystems" (LMEs) have been proposed, and aggressively promoted during the last decade, as potentially suitable management units for marine and coastal environment. Although the concept underlying LMEs has been theoretically elaborated in a number of publications, and is notionally introduced in a number of programmes, its practical applicability still requires verification in strictly scientific terms.

There is a huge gap in knowledge about the species inhabiting the oceans, particularly those in, or above, the deep see floor. Without new research in this field, the full significance and potentials of marine biodiversity can not be assessed.

The predicted global change, the impact of climate change in particular, is posing a number of problems requiring scientific analysis. The potential consequences of increased ambiental temperatures and changing sea-level for species abundance and composition of ecosystems, spatial redistribution of fisheries resources, and shifts in the productivity of marine areas, are just some of the issues requiring scientific insight. The potential effects of changing intensity of ultraviolet radiation may affect marine resources and needs to be studied.

Although the atmospheric input of pollutants was well studied in Europe an North America, such studies have been grossly neglected in most other regions of the world. Consequently, the global assessment of inputs, and particularly the assessment of regional differences in the inputs is inadequate. Atmospheric modelling and measurement programmes would be necessary to assess accurately pollutant inputs to estuaries and coastal waters, including regional seas, needed to develop strategies for the protection of such water bodies.

Realistic models of ocean mixing are required to calculate the oceanic uptake of the excess carbon dioxide. Significant progress has been made in the qualitative and, in part, the quantitative understanding of the global carbon cycle. Nevertheless, many challenging questions remain to be answered69/ if the atmospheric budget is to be understood and the climate sensitivity of the carbon cycle to be determined on time-scales ranging up to a thousand years or more. Outstanding scientific questions relating to deep ocean are the role of the oceans in exchange and vertical transport of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Design of management approaches to cope with substances disrupting endocrine functions is difficult, due to lack of adequate scientific information. Although it is most likely that the most obvious adverse effects of endocrine disruptors will occur in coastal areas (and freshwater systems), their effects in the open ocean can not be ruled out.

With increasing prospects for the exploitation of seabed beyond the limits of continental shelf, there are many unknowns and more research is needed to clarify issues related to drilling in deep waters. There will be tremendous challenges related to the transportation from the well site. Sea-floor instability is always a potential hazard. Slope failure could certainly destroy a pipeline. Will gas hydrates in sediments near sea-floor production facilities decompose and yield free gas as production raises sediment temperatures? In addition, carbon dioxide itself is a gas that forms hydrates. Some giant natural gas fields in the Far East contain more carbon dioxide than hydrocarbon gas. The carbon dioxide would be normally separated from the hydrocarbon gas and released to the atmosphere. Why not trap the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas itself at the sea floor where it could eventually be buried in sedimentation? Separating carbon dioxide at the sea floor, and burying it as hydrate would be more environmentally friendly.

The protection of marine environment frequently depends on adequate technology. Scientific research leading to new or alternate technologies would be required, particularly in fields such as: treatment of waste at its source (i.e., before its release into the environment); neutralisation or enhanced degradation of environmentally harmful substances; cleaner production; reduction and reuse of waste.

The oceans have a major role in the budget of carbon dioxide and dimethyl sulphide, the latter in part influenced by eutrophication processes. The key question here is the kind of feedback process in which oceanic gas exchange alters climate and the altered climate then alters the rate of production and/or exchange of climate influencing gases.

In view of considerable degree of uncertainties, evidence for global warming remains a matter of scientific debate. Furthermore, the causal association between global climate change, algal bloom frequency and associated risks to human health has not yet been firmly established.

In spite of admittedly numerous conceptual controversies, environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a powerful tool in hands of experienced managers. In many cases the comprehensive character of EIA is not fully understood and exploited, and in many countries its application is still not taken seriously. Additional research is needed, particularly for development of a pragmatic, and yet on science based methodology for interactive assessment of ecological, economic and social implications of development activities.


Need for new conventions

The remarkable increase in the negotiated and signed ocean-related environmental agreements (see Annex) raises the serious question whether significant progress could be achieved by further swelling their number or rather by consolidating the implementation of existing conventions.

Some countries, specially the developing ones, are becoming overtaxed by the human and financial resources needed to engage in meaningful negotiations and to implement effectively the agreements already concluded. It is also notorious that strict compliance with obligations contained in agreements is far from satisfactory even in countries which do not lack such resources. Experience shows that new conventions and protocols added to existing conventions are becoming more demanding. The obligations are becoming stricter, targets more precise, deadlines more explicit, financial requirements higher.

Therefore, a "slow-down" in development of new agreements would seem appropriate, with concomitant removal of impediments for full implementation of existing ones. This would have to involve significantly increased substantial assistance to disadvantaged countries focusing on issues hampering their ability to implement the agreements. Furthermore, compliance monitoring should be taken more seriously.

Soft laws

Reliance is on increase on "soft laws", reflecting consensus which is not expressed in the form of formal, legally binding agreements. Admittedly, soft laws are less precise than legally binding agreements, but in many instances they can be just as effective in promoting the essential goals of formal conventions without the heavy burdens frequently associated with the negotiation and implementation of conventions.

Broadening scope of regional conventions

An interesting trend can be observed, particularly in UNEP-sponsored regional seas conventions. The initial focus of these conventions was on pollution control and the convention areas were restricted to marine waters outside the inland waters of contracting parties. However, the focus of the conventions and the action plans associated with them gradually shifted from pollution control to general environment protection, and to development issues. The action field was also enlarged to include marine and inland waters under national jurisdiction, coastal terrestrial areas, and their resources. In some cases attempts were even made to expand the action field to drainage basins and non-coastal states along such basins.

Responsibility sharing

Although at present governments carry the primary responsibility for implementation of international agreements they have adopted, they tend to share, in an increasing way, their responsibilities with the relevant sectors of civil society.70/ In order to enlist the support of these sectors, their representatives are today almost regularly included in government delegations negotiating new conventions or reviewing the existing ones. Moreover, it became a frequent practice to admit to such negotiations or reviews the representatives of various interest groups in their own right, although in most cases only as observers.71/

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) interested in the protection of the marine environment play an increasing role in this process.72/ They are growing in number and strength. In some countries, as well as in a global context, they already represent a strong public voice and wield considerable political influence by promoting or opposing development plans and environmental policies. Unfortunately, in too many instances their potential role in the sphere of international law is generally still underestimated and under-utilised and they are often treated by governments, business, financial and trade communities as certain adversaries rather than potential allies.

Increasing respect for global interests

Traditionally international law is characterised by three basic principles: sovereignty, independence and equality of all states. However, with expanding recognition of common interests shared by mankind as a whole, these principles became somewhat elusive, particularly when considering environmental issues of global significance. Gradually, states are more and more considered as obliged to act inside the limits of their jurisdiction on behalf of mankind, and such considerations found a clear expression in some of the latest international environmental laws.

In the case of climate change, for instance, at the basic level the interest of the most developed countries coincide with the interest of least developed countries in spite of their considerably different specific interests and priorities. This common basic-level interest allowed them to reach a consensus how to deal with global change within an internationally agreed legal framework. The same can be said for controlling marine pollution, transport of hazardous waste or protection of biological diversity.

The anticipatory and precautionary approach

The latest international conventions reveal a strong anticipatory and precautionary approach. Rather than dealing with an acute, well defined and documented problems, they try to forestall problems which are anticipated. For instance, although the assumptions on which the climate convention is built are still questioned in many quarters, and the scientific uncertainties related to the rate, magnitude and effects which could be expected are enormous, in light of perceived risks governments decided to act now because later it may be too late to avoid the worst consequences of predicted effects of climate change.

The strengthening of the same anticipatory approach is evident also in existing conventions. Provisions are made and procedures developed for placing more emphasis on early warning systems and monitoring of changes. Risk assessment, prior notification and consultation, and environment impact assessment are required before states could engage in activities that could significantly harm the environment in areas beyond their jurisdiction.

Human rights

The growing link between human rights and global environmental change is evident also in the latest environmental conventions. Rights of participation, access to information, and freedom of speech, among others, are already articulated as essential elements of these conventions. The consideration of issues, such as creation of "environmental refugees" or loss of a way of life by indigenous people is also on agenda of conventions dealing with global environment change. Right to environment is a relatively new concept, yet to find its expression in international law.

Finally, the rights of future generations to enjoy a healthy environment and benefit from its wealth is under discussion. While intergenerational rights are not linked explicitly to laws dealing with human rights, they can be viewed as their extension, with potentially far reaching implications for the approach taken in many present environmental laws.

Unresolved hot issues

While there are no major conflicts between the provisions of existing environmental laws pertinent to the ocean environment, there are considerable gaps to be filled in.

One of the hottest current issue relates to bioprospecting, access, conservation and use of genetic resources, particularly those on and in the deep sea-bed. The scientific and commercial value of these resources is largely unknown though considered as very high. UNCLOS has no adequate provisions to deal with the problem and in the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity the problem remained an issue yet to be resolved in a satisfactory way.73/

The inconsistencies between present environmental and emerging trade regimes may be another important issue to be watched carefully and resolved.


In light of all the above, the Rapporteur has reached the following conclusions.

Firstly, we must admit that our knowledge of the state of the marine environment is not yet as complete as we would like it to be. Arguably, it is not fully clear to what extent the open seas are in danger because of pollution. This, however, does not allow us to give them a clean bill of health. Rather, it teaches us that we should devote more efforts and fund more research to find out more about it. On the other hand, it is becoming more evident every day that the state of many coastal areas is a matter for serious concern, and that something should be done, and urgently, to reverse their continuing deterioration and make sure they are sensibly managed in future.

Secondly, there is a growing need for dialogue between scientists and political and administrative decision-makers. As said above, there does not seem to be enough research about some issues concerning the state of the marine environment. Worse, the results of the studies that are being carried out often do not reach the decision-makers. It is most important for us decision-makers to tell the scientific community what kind of information we need to make our decisions, and for the scientific community to communicate to provide clear, policy-oriented information to the decision-makers. At any rate, our future policy decisions must be based on sound data and scientific evidence, to escape the temptation of spectacular yet sometimes meaningless actions.

Thirdly, there is growing evidence that the traditional treaty-making mechanisms we have built during this century might no longer be the ideal tool to solve the problems of the marine environment. It is becoming increasingly difficult to make multilateral treaties on protecting the marine environment. Very often we tackle only part of the issues at stake, and we do it in a spotty manner. Contrary to the evolution of events, which is ever accelerating, multilateral negotiations are painstakingly slow. And then, implementation mechanisms are burdensome, which sometimes leads to few countries really implementing a new treaty. On the other hand, so-called ‘soft law’ is gaining acceptance as a means of developing international guidelines and benchmarks. It is easier and less costly to implement, and thus it can develop faster. Therein might lie its beauty. That is not to say that we should scrap traditional treaty making altogether, but we should consider seriously whether the current proliferation of watered-down treaties is the way to go. To sum up, we should decide which is better : whether to have unbinding rules that many countries take into account when developing national and regional environmental policies, or a bundle of binding, formal treaties that hardly anyone abides by.

Improving the state of the environment in Europe’s coastal areas is not a matter for coastal countries alone. Nor for marine scientists or politicians alone. On the contrary, polluters having a direct effect on a coastal area can sometimes be located miles inland, up the stream of a river in the area’s catchment basin, even in a land-locked country. Not to speak of pollution that is carried into the sea through the atmosphere. Some of the recent environmental disasters are clear examples of this. Then again, the over-development of tourist resorts along the coast, while not necessarily being a source of year-round pollution, can seriously contribute to deforestation and other environmental damages. In other words, we must bring together many different people if we wish to develop a new and original policy for coastal areas. This takes experts in marine pollution, indeed. But it also takes real estate developers, experts in tourism, city planners, and representatives of non-coastal countries whose rivers flow into that coastal area. In a nutshell, the goal of our future maritime policies must be the sustainable development of the seas and coastal areas. This will not an easy exercise, but we do not have much of a choice. Nor much time to lose, for that matter.

Finally, for all these reasons, the Rapporteur deems it necessary to give thought to the possibility of setting up a European Maritime Agency. One could argue that not all European countries are naturally interested in things maritime. The Rapporteur begs to disagree. As said above, all countries have an effect on the seas, and on the state of the marine environment in particular. We are all concerned. Yet, co-ordination is hardly the word that could describe the way we are developing our maritime policies these days. The Rapporteur deems that this report shows the extent to which a multi-disciplinary approach is needed to solve such problems. Hence the need for an over-arching ‘umbrella’ maritime agency for Europe, where such policies can be co-ordinated. If you will, let other, more specialised agencies work out the details. But have someone co-ordinate all.

Last but not least, let our concern for the Oceans live beyond this International Year. Let us not turn off the lights after December 31. While it is true that we need to carry out swift actions if we want to reverse some of the most worrying trends, it is also true that this will not be achieved in a few months. We ought to see to it that new, more original policies are developed, but we must also allow for time for them to yield results. The Assembly, as a parliament of parliaments, pledges to come back to this issue at regular intervals, so as to make sure that words are being transformed into deeds. We shall ask questions – sometimes uncomfortable questions – and we shall seek concrete answers from the executive bodies we monitor. The Oceans are too serious an issue to devote merely a year to them.




A. Global agreements

1946       International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling - adopted in 1946 (Washington), in force since 1978; amended in 1986, in force since 1995

1954       International Convention or the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL) - adopted in 1954 (London), in force since 1958; amended in 1962 and 1969, in force since 1980

1958       Convention on the Continental Shelf - adopted in 1958 (Geneva), in force since 1964; superseded by UNCLOS

1958       Convention on the High Seas - adopted in 1958 (Geneva), in force since 1962; superseded by UNCLOS

1958       Convention on Fishing and the Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas - adopted in 1958 (Geneva), in force since 1966

1962       Agreement Concerning Co-operation in Marine Fishing - adopted in 1962 (Warsaw), in force since 1963

1963       Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water - adopted in 1963 (Moscow), in force since 1963

1969       International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties (Interventions) - adopted in 1969 (London), in force since 1975

1969       International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) - adopted in 1969 (London), in force since 1975

1970       Convention for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) - adopted in 1964 (Copenhagen), in force since 1968; amended in 1970, in force since 1975

1971       Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof - adopted in 1971 (London, Moscow, Washington), in force since 1972

1971       International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (Fund) - adopted in 1971 (Brussels), in force since 1978

1971       Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (RAMSAR) - adopted in 1971 (Ramsar), in force since 1975

1971       Convention Relating to Civil Liability in the Field of Maritime Carriage of Nuclear Material - adopted in 1971 (Brussels), in force since 1975

1972       Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea (COLREG) - adopted in 1972 (London), in force since 1977

1972       Action Plan for the Human Environment - adopted in 1972 (Stockholm)

1972       Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted in 1972 (Paris), in force since 1995

1972       Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention) - adopted in 1972 (London, Mexico City,, Moscow, Washington), in force since 1975; will be superseded by Protocol to London Convention - adopted in 1996 (London)

1973       Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - adopted in 1973 (Washington), in force since 1975

1973       International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78) - adopted in 1973 (London), modified in 1978 (London), in force since 1983

1974       International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) - adopted in 1974 (London) (as replacement of version adopted in 1960), in force since 1980

1977       International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels (SFV) - adopted in 1977 (Torremolinos)

1977       Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage Resulting from Exploration for and Exploitation of Seabed Mineral Resources - adopted in 1977 (London)

1977       Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques - adopted in 1977 (Geneva), in force since 1978

1979       Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) - adopted in 1979 (Bonn)

1980       Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution - adopted in 1980 (Geneva)

1982       United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - adopted in 1982 (Montego Bay), in force since 1994; Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention adopted in 1994 as General Assembly resolution 48/263, in force since 1996 (the Agreement is to be interpreted and applied together with the Convention as a single instruments; in the event of any inconsistency between the Agreement and Part XI of the Convention, the provisions of the Agreement shall prevail)

1984       Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Management and Utilisation of Marine Mammals (MMAP) - revision adopted in 1984 (FAO/UNEP)

1984       Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves - adopted in 1984 (UNESCO)

1985       Montreal Guidelines for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution - adopted in 1985 (UNEP)

1985       Guidelines and Standards or the Removal of Offshore Installations and Structures on the Continental Shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zones - adopted in 1985 (IMO)

1989       Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention) - adopted in 1989 (Basel), in force since 1993

1990       Code of Practice for Conservation of Transfer and Introductions of Marine and freshwater Organisms - adopted in 1990 (FAO/ICES)

1990       Code of Practice on International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste - adopted in 1990 (IAEA)

1990       International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC) - adopted in 1990 (London), in force since 1995

1991       Guidelines for the Designation of Special Areas and the Identification of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas - adopted in 1991 (IMO)

1992       Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development - adopted in 1992 (Rio de Janeiro)

1992       Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - adopted in 1992 (Rio de Janeiro), in force since 1993

1992       United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - adopted in 1992 (Rio de Janeiro), in force since 1993

1993       International Guidelines for Preventing the Introduction of Unwanted Aquatic Marine Organisms and Pathogens from Ships' Ballast Water and Sediment Discharges - adopted in 1993 (IMO)

1993       Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas - adopted in 1993 (FAO)

1994       Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) - adopted in 1994 (Barbados)

1994       Convention on Nuclear Safety - adopted in 1994 (Vienna)

1995       Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries - adopted in 1995 (FAO)

1995       Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks - adopted in 1995 (UN General Assembly)

1995       Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities - adopted in 1995 (Washington)

1996       International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances - adopted in 1996 (London)

B. Regional agreements

1949       Convention for the Establishment of an Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) - adopted in 1949 (Washington), in force since 1950

1949       Agreement for the Establishment of a General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean - adopted in 1949 (Rome), in force since 1963

1952       Agreement Concerning Measures for Protection of the Stocks of Deep-Sea Prawns, European lobsters, Norway Lobsters and Crabs - adopted in 1952 (Oslo), in force since 1953; amended in 1959, in force since 1959

1952       International Convention for the High Seas Fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean - adopted in 1952 (Tokyo), in force since 1953

1957       Interim Convention on Conservation of North Pacific Fur Seals - adopted in 1957 (Washington); superseded by Convention on Conservation of North Pacific Fur Seals - adopted in 1976 (Washington), in force since 1976

1959       North-East Atlantic Fisheries Convention - adopted in 1959 (London), in force since 1963

1959       Antarctic Treaty - adopted in 1959 (Washington), in force since 1961; Protocol on Environmental Protection - adopted in 1991 (Madrid)

1959       Convention Concerning Fishing in the Black Sea - adopted in 1959 (Varna), in force since 1960; amended in 1965

1966       International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas - adopted in 1966 (Rio de Janeiro), in force since 1969

1968       Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) - adopted in 1968

1968       African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - adopted in 1968 (Algiers), in force since 1969

1969       Agreement for Cooperation in dealing with Pollution of the North Sea by Oil - adopted in 1969 (Bonn), in force since 1969

1969       Convention on the Conservation of the Living resources of the Southeast Atlantic - adopted in 1969 (Rome), in force since 1971

1972       Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS) - adopted in 1972 (London), in force since 1978

1972       Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircrafts (Oslo Convention) - adopted in 1972 (Oslo), in force since 1974; superseded by the OSPAR Convention - adopted in 1992 (Paris)

1973       Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources in the Baltic Sea and Belts - adopted in 1973 (Gdansk), i force since 1974

1973       Agreement on Conservation of Polar Bears - adopted in 1973 (Oslo), in force since 1976

1974       Nordic Environmental Protection Convention - adopted in 1974 (Stockholm), in force since 1976

1974       Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-Based Sources - adopted in 1974 (Paris), in force since 1978; superseded by the OSPAR Convention - adopted in 1992 (Paris)

1974       Convention on the Protection of the Environment between Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden - adopted in 1974 (Stockholm), in force since 1975

1974       Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area - adopted in 1974 (Helsinki), in force since 1980; revised in 1992, in force since 1995

1975       Action Plan for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea - adopted in 1975 (Barcelona)

1976       Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution - adopted in 1976 (Barcelona), in force since 1978: amended in 1995

1976       Action Plan for the Conservation of the Marine Environment and Coastal Areas of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden - adopted in 1976 (Jeddah)

1976       Convention on Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific - adopted in 1976 (Apia), in force since 1990

1976       Agreement Concerning the Protection of the Waters of the Mediterranean Shores - adopted in 1976 (Monaco), in force since 1981

1978       Kuwait Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution - adopted in 1978 (Kuwait), in force since 1979

1978       Action Plan for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Areas of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - adopted in 1978 (Kuwait)

1978       Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries - adopted in 1978 (Ottawa), in force since 1979

1978       Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals - adopted in 1978

1979       Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats - adopted in 1979 (Bern)

1980       Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in North East Atlantic Fisheries - adopted in 1980 (London), in force since 1982

1980       Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) - adopted in 1980 (Canberra), in force since 1982

1981       Action Plan for the Caribbean Environment Programme - adopted in 1981 (Montego Bay)

1981       Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Areas of the East Asian Region - adopted in 1981 (Bangkok)

1981       Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region - adopted in 1981 (Abidjan), in force since 1984

1981       Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and Coastal Areas of the West and Central African Region - adopted in 1981 (Abidjan)

1981       Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and Coastal Areas of the South East Pacific - adopted in 1981 (Lima), in force since 1986

1981       Action Plan for the Protection of the Marine Environment and Coastal Areas of the South-East Pacific - adopted in 1981 (Lima)

1981       Agreement on Regional Cooperation in Combating Pollution of the South-East Pacific by Hydrocarbons or Other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency - adopted in 1981 (Lima), in force since 1986

1982       Action Plan for Managing the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region - adopted in 1982 (Noumea)

1982       Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean - adopted in 1982 (Reykjavik)

1982       Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Environment - adopted in 1982 (Jeddah), in force since 1985

1983       Convention for the Protection and development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region - adopted in 1983 (Cartagena), in force since 1986

1983       Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Fishing Agreement - adopted in 1983 (San Jose)

1983       Agreement for Cooperation in Dealing with Pollution of the North Sea by Oil and Other Harmful Substances - adopted in 1983 (Bonn), in force since 1989

1985       South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty - adopted in 1985 (Rarotonga), in force since 1986

1985       ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - adopted in 1985 (Kuala Lumpur)

1985       Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region - adopted in 1985 (Nairobi), in force since 1986

1985       Action Plan for the Protection, Management and development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region - adopted in 1985 (Nairobi)

1986       Convention for the Protection of Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region - adopted in 1986 (Noumea), in force since 1990

1987       Treaty on Fisheries between the Government of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of the America - adopted in 1987 (Port Moresby)

1988       Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources Activities - adopted in 1988 (Wellington)

1988       Agreement on the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific - adopted in 1988 (Bangkok), in force since 1990

1989       Convention for the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Driftnets in the South Pacific - adopted in 1989 (Wellington)

1990       Agreement on the Conservation of Seals in the Wadden Sea - adopted in 1990 (Bonn)

1990       Accord of Cooperation for the Protection of the Coasts and Waters of the Northeast Atlantic Against Pollution Due to Hydrocarbons or Other Harmful Substances - adopted in 1990 (Lisbon)

1991       Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes in Africa - adopted in 1991 (Bamako)

1991       Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context - adopted in 1991 (ECE)

1991       Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy - adopted in 1991 (Rovaniemi)

1992       Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution - adopted in 1992 (Bucharest), in force since 1994

1992       Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Sea - adopted in 1992 (New York)

1992       Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) - adopted in 1992 (Paris); supersedes the Oslo (1972) and Paris (1974) conventions

1992       Agreement on Cooperation in Research, Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals in the North Atlantic - adopted in 1992 (Nuuk)

1992       Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region - adopted in 1995

1992       Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean - adopted in 1992 (Moscow)

1993       Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Agreement - adopted in 1993 (FAO)

1993       Convention or the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tune - adopted in 1993 (Canberra)

1994       Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Environment Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora - adopted in 1994 (Lusaka)

1994       Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea - adopted in 1994 (Washington)


Independent World Commission on the Oceans

Final Session


30 August - 1 September 1998      




The 1998 Lisbon Declaration


Dimensions of a New Perspective

This Declaration is issued as a direct response to the designation – by the United Nations General Assembly – of 1998 as the ‘International Year of the Ocean’. It is also set forth on the occasion of Expo'98, which is dedicated to the theme of the ocean. Most of all, it represents both the culmination of the work of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans and a statement of its central message issued to coincide with the presentation of its report ‘The Ocean … Our Future’. These developments converge in time and space here in Lisbon, and together express an emerging global awareness that much more sustained attention must be devoted to the ocean to ensure its benefits for the future of humanity.

      A new perspective towards the ocean, endorsed in this Declaration, combines five elements: unity, urgency, potential, opportunity and trusteeship.

Unity refers to the idea that it is necessary to abandon the traditional view of the ocean as divided into a number of separate and distinct oceans. We now know that oceanic processes and water masses form parts of an integrated whole and must be treated as such. It follows that we should be thinking mainly about the ocean and less and less frequently about oceans. Citizens and leaders need to acquire this sense of unity as the basis for future governance of the ocean.

      Urgency refers to the seriousness of the challenges arising from present patterns of use of the ocean, and especially from the shortcomings of existing norms, procedures and institutions of governance. Not overcoming these difficulties will lead to a progressive deterioration of the ocean and decline in the availability and quality of its living resources. Complacency toward the ocean in the 21st century could lead to catastrophe.

      Potential refers to the extraordinary bounty and promise provided by the ocean to the people of the world if well-tended and creatively used. The ocean provides invaluable sources of water, food and energy, and has a limitless capacity to satisfy our sense of beauty, nurture our spiritual growth, and fulfil our needs for enjoyment. We now have the technological means to begin to comprehend its awesome mysteries, including its intimate relations to the floor of earth below and ceiling of sky above.

Opportunity refers to the possibilities offered by the current global setting and a rising public awareness of the importance of the ocean for human survival. We live at a rare moment of opportunity. Let us seize the occasion by proposing bold action. Ocean concerns have at last been given visibility at the global level by the ‘International Year of the Ocean’.

Trusteeship refers to the active engagement by citizens and society in caring for the health of the ocean. It draws upon the ideas, policies, institutions, and enforcement procedures needed to protect the ocean from various abuses, including the effects of land-based activity. It establishes a lasting relationship of public trust between humanity and the ocean, on the basis of our evolving knowledge and understanding of ecological, economic and social aspects of ocean use. To be fully realized, this trust must express our reverence for the wonders of the ocean.

Global Trends and Developments

As the millenium ends, we witness profound changes in world order. There are many difficult new challenges confronting society, and most states have only a limited capacity to provide for human security. Global market forces – while generating an extraordinary energy for growth – have often substituted themselves for government with some unfortunate results. These forces tend to be insensitive to the social and ecological harm that is being caused, in particular to the ocean.

In this period of awakening to ocean issues we must take a much fuller account of the extraordinary diversity of social circumstances and cultural outlooks that exist in the world. A growing commitment to human rights and a sense of solidarity with all peoples is leading to a special effort to uphold the well-being of indigenous and traditional peoples in their various forms of ocean use and dependency.

But there are several favorable global trends that make us hopeful about our eventual capacity to solve the current problems. Most of all, democracy is spreading and deepening across the planet and is giving rise to new forms of political action that engage citizens and communities in the process of governance at various levels, ranging from local to global. Relations between state and society are no longer expressive of the totality of democratic politics, and this can be helpful in meeting those challenges of the ocean that do not conform neatly to the boundaries of states. As people work together for the benefit of the ocean they will also be participating in that great undertaking of building a global democratic society. If such a process of globalization-from-below goes forward, then much more effective checks can be brought to bear on the negative aspects of globalization.

      Pressures for greater equity and more responsible policies in the use of ocean space and its resources has led to some historic adjustments of the extent of rights of coastal states. The 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, now ratified by almost 130 countries, represents a major step forward in ocean governance by moving toward responsible sovereignty and extended ocean management by states as well as by recognizing the seabed beyond national jurisdiction as the ‘common heritage of mankind’. The Convention has also established several institutions – International Seabed Authority, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf – with the potential to enhance public order in the ocean. The historic extension of rights and duties of coastal states in their Exclusive Economic Zones up to 200 nautical miles has been achieved without any overt departure from the overarching commitment of the world community to the freedom of the high seas.

These impulses were carried to a higher stage of policy awareness in Agenda 21 – adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development – whose implementation is monitored by the Commission on Sustainable Development. There emerged a clearer sense than ever before that the protection of coastal areas – the incorporation of the waters offshore with the life onshore – where so many of the earth’s people live has become of utmost importance. It was confirmed that their adequate protection will require a far more integrated management approach than currently exists. Increasingly, resource development should also respond to the needs of the poor and economically disadvantaged.

The common interests of humanity require more effective enforcement of existing rules and more comprehensive management of the uses of ocean space. It seems timely and essential to review the role of naval power, and its relationship to international law and global security. Severe problems on the ocean associated with drug trafficking, piracy, clandestine movement of persons and environmental crime are now aggravated by inadequate regulation and weak enforcement.

The prospects for effective governance of the ocean will depend on putting into practice improved ideas, methods of cooperation, institutions and measures of implementation. This is the overriding challenge, in relation to the ocean, that confronts humanity with such urgency at the present time. This is the challenge, also, that will be met only by the successful mobilization of grassroots support based on a far greater understanding of the ocean in all parts of our world. We need to make the fullest use of human wisdom and creativity, as well as make available the knowledge of scientific communities. We also require more responsible governmental action to devise and enact policies that will prudently protect and even enhance ocean quality for present and future generations.

In this spirit the IWCO hereby adopts on 1 September 1998 its Lisbon Declaration identifying major directions that ocean governance should take in order to bring about a more democratic, equitable, and effective public order for the ocean in the early decades of the next century.

Towards Better Ocean Governance

The following directions towards ocean governance reflect a basic conviction that the ocean belongs to all the people of the world, and that all uses of the ocean are to be governed by an overriding commitment to human well-being, now and in the future. Such a vision of ocean governance needs to be carried into practice if the broad goals of sustainable development are to be realized.


Responsible sovereignty. This means a shift from an insistence on the traditional sovereignty of states to their adoption of a different approach based on self-restraint. To bring about ‘responsible sovereignty’ we must treat the ocean as an integrated whole. We must also respond with urgency, arising from our growing awareness of detrimental tendencies in current patterns of use. This calls for a much more effective implementation of international commitments that states have already accepted.


Global and regional levels of responsibility. To carry out a stewardship on behalf of the ocean places all decision-making public institutions in a lasting long-range public trust relationship to the ocean. We believe that greater attention to ocean policy by these institutions is indispensable at this stage of history, especially given the growing burdens arising from emerging patterns of use. States cannot meet the challenges of the oceans without a more effective engagement by global and regional institutions. Such an undertaking is especially applicable to the United Nations system. It also applies to the various regional arrangements operating in different parts of the world.


Societal responsibility. The benevolent exercise of this trust also depends on mobilizing all sectors of society, especially in order to encourage states to use their power and authority in accordance with ‘responsible sovereignty’. Accepting such a responsibility is at the core of a democratic and equitable approach to ocean governance, and seeks to enlist widespread support from all sectors of the world community.


Peace and security. It is essential to ensure that the ocean is used peacefully and in a manner that is sensitive to the security needs of countries and people. This entails a commitment to find a peaceful solution to maritime boundary and resource disputes. It also includes a concern with some naval activities on the ocean, and with the adequacy of existing guidelines relating to military operations. It calls for the adoption of an expanded concept of security based on sustainable development of ocean resources as well as providing better protection against crime and environmental threats.


Participation. Democracy and equity need to be given practical effect by ensuring that all people and their representatives, in and out of government, can participate in shaping ocean governance. To this end, we must ensure effective partnership between governments, non-governmental entities and civil society in general, including especially those having a direct stake in ocean affairs.


Accountability. It is also essential that all users of the ocean be held accountable under law in a fair but effective manner. This calls for the application of the precautionary principle to all activities that threaten the ocean’s ecological stability and, generally, for upholding the quality of ocean life by a more consistent reliance on the rule of law.


Knowledge and assessment. We must make full use of the best available scientific knowledge and apply as widely as possible in ocean space the technology which is most appropriate. We must also encourage systematic prior assessments of impacts relating to hazardous activities and new technologies. The achievement of these goals depends upon the genuine cooperation among governments, including widespread sharing of knowledge and technology with disadvantaged countries.


Fairness and equity. Concern about economically or geographically disadvantaged people should become an integral part of our approach to the ocean. This concern has many dimensions. They include those of a North/South character, but also those relating to the protection of individuals and communities, such as many small island nations and indigenous or traditional peoples, whose uses of the ocean are under particular threat.


Democratic approach. If the ocean is to be governed in a democratic spirit, we must overcome the limitations of the present legal and institutional framework in order to permit it to respond to changing conditions. To move in this direction, global civil society should be given independent means to express itself, exercise its vigilance and exert its creative influence so as to ensure effective and socially sensitive management and initiatives.


Overall vision. Our commitment to a public order of the ocean involves more than the better observance of rules and procedures, more than institutional innovations, and even more than the pursuit of sustainable development. We are committed above all to the well-being of the individual and to the spiritual and aesthetic destiny of humanity, which is inseparable from the health of the ocean.

*       *       *

Prepared in the light of the findings of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans and signed by:

Mário Soares



AS/Science (1998) 23 rev

AS/Loc (1998) 46 rev

AS/Agr (1998) 18 rev

AS/Cult/AA (1998) 13 rev

1 September 1998



Lisbon (Portugal)

31 August - 1 September 1998

Statement adopted by the Assembly delegation

on the Declaration on Ocean Governance in the 21st Century

(of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans)

1.       It is in the oceans that life began, and so the oceans continue to be of paramount importance to the development of human society. Since its inception, nearly 50 years ago, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has devoted its attention to maritime issues, and put forward many initiatives in this field, including blueprints for new international law. As a consequence, we cannot but welcome the United Nations’  decision to declare 1998 the International Year of the Ocean, as well as the setting-up of an Independent World Commission on the Oceans. We are also pleased to note that the theme of this Expo ’98 is “The oceans - a heritage for the future”.

2.       Now is the right time to take stock of the state of the oceans, and bring up new ideas and visions on how best to manage this precious asset. We in the Parliamentary Assembly wish to make our own contribution, in co-ordination with other international bodies and agencies.

3.       This is what has brought us to Lisbon. We have come to listen, learn and think. We are thankful to the Portuguese authorities for their generous invitation and for the opportunity to talk to the members of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans.

4.       Several committees of the Assembly, i.e. the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities ; the Committee on Science and Technology ; the Committee on Agricultural and Rural Development (Sub-committee on Fisheries) ; the Sub-Committee on the Cultural Heritage (of the Committee on Culture and Education) have met here these last two days. They have discussed a number of reports which they will present to our next plenary session, due in three weeks’ time. Our aim is for the Parliamentary Assembly to make concrete proposals on maritime policy issues to our Organisation’s Committee of Ministers, which represents forty European Governments. These policy proposals will be our main contribution to this Year.

5.       We support the Independent World Commission’s Lisbon Declaration on Ocean Governance in the 21st Century, which we deem a very inspiring document. We share the Commission’s view that a more imaginative and original approach, and a strong commitment to sustainable development, are needed to manage the oceans in the next century and beyond. At a time when the oceans, and coastal areas in particular, find themselves under increasing pressure from human activity, it is necessary to give fresh thought to their future. It is indeed an urgent task.

6.       The Council of Europe has upheld democracy and human rights for half a century. We agree with the Independent World Commission on the Oceans that only a more open, more accountable and more transparent society can bring about the necessary changes that will help us ensure a better future for the Earth’s oceans. Democracy is indeed becoming a prerequisite of sound and sustainable management. At the same time, only a well-informed society can make the right choices, and for this reason we deem it necessary to organise an awareness-raising campaign on the importance of the Oceans. This we shall ask our governments to do and we shall target in the first place the younger generation.

7.       Europe has a rich maritime cultural heritage, and many are its sea-faring nations with a noble past. This heritage is made up of historic ships (including sunken wrecks), the immovable heritage (including ports and coastal, river and canal structures) and the documentary heritage (books, archives, pictures, music, decorative features). Protection of this heirtage should be integrated in ocean management policies.

8.       European maritime industries are world leaders and European fishing fleets are operating in most oceans. Yet the future of the oceans is far from being a matter for coastal countries alone. It is now clear that most of the pollution of the oceans comes from land-based activities that may take place miles away from the seas, and is conveyed there by rivers or through the atmosphere. In other words, landlocked countries and coastal countries are to share their responsibility in this. We particularly welcome the concept of responsible sovereignty that the Independent World Commission is putting forward in their Declaration. But Governments are not solely responsible. We all are, and our future policies should make sure that non-governmental organisations, companies, experts, scientists and civil society in general make firm commitments in maritime affairs.

9.       Coastal areas are currently bearing the brunt of maritime problems such as pollution, overfishing, ecological degradation, drug trafficking, piracy, clandestine movement of people and environmental crime. Such problems require an overall approach. We can no longer afford to build artificial partitions and claim that, say, aquaculture and waste-water treatment are totally different issues. They are all part of one big problem, and thus should be tackled together. Only a multidisciplinary perspective that cuts across politics, economics, science and law can succeed in shaping the new maritime policies and institutions for the forthcoming century.

10.       We also agree with the Independent Commission that action is needed at all levels: global, regional and local. We in the Parliamentary Assembly can help shape a European regional response. We therefore recommend the creation of a forward-looking European Maritime Agency, responsible for developing the new comprehensive and multi-disciplinary policies we all need. In this respect we welcome the initiative taken by Portugal and supported by several other countries, towards the setting up of such an instrument for co-operation.

11.       We also invite all member states of the Council of Europe that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as other relevant global and regional treaties sponsored by the International Maritime Organisation and the UN Environment Programme.

Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none

Reference to committee : Order No. 522 (1996)

Draft recommendation and draft resolution adopted by the committee on 1 September 1998

Members of the committee : MM. Briane (Chairman), Mr Ruffy (Vice-Chairman), Ms Aytaman, M. Yamgnane (Vice-Chairs) (Alternate : Lengagne), MM Akçali, Andreoli, Assis Miranda (Alternate : Niza), Besostri, Blaauw, Mme Blunck, MM Boka (Alternate : Lambergs), Browne, Sir Sydney Chapman, MM Chircop, Ciobanu, Ciupaila, Cox, Diana (Alternate : Risari), Mrs Dromberg, MM Feldmann (remplaçant : Marten), Frunda, Giannattasio, Haraldsson, Hoeffel, Mrs Johansson, MM Johansson, Kieres (Alternate : Adamczyk), Kittis, Koci, Korakas, Kukk, Kurucsai, Lachat, Linzer, Luczak, Martinez Casan, Minkov (Alternate : Naydenov), Molnar, Mota Amaral, Mozetic, Mrs Oleinik, MM Pesek, Prokes, Prosser (Alternate : O'Hara), Prusi, Rados, Rakhansky, Recoder (Alternate : Bolinaga), Mrs Riess-Passer, MM Rise, Samofalov (Alternate : Popescu), Mrs Severinsen, MM Skoularikis, Sobyanin, Staes, Steolea, Svoboda, Theis, Toshev, Valkeniers, Vishnyakov, Woltjer, Zierer.

N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: Ms Cagnolati-Staveris, Mr Grau Tanner, Mr Chevtchenko

1 As far as this report is concerned, the term "oceans" also designates the world's seas.

2 The earth's surface has three primary components: the hydrosphere (fresh and salty surface waters); the lithosphere (the earth's outer shell of rock consisting of continental crust and sediment-covered oceanic crust); and the atmosphere. The total surface waters cover an area of about 361 million compared with the total surface area of the earth of 509 million The Pacific basin and its associate seas is the largest of the three ocean basins, followed by the Atlantic basin (including the Arctic ocean) and the Indian ocean.

3 Extrapolations from the past and present trends into the future indicate that Americas will continue drifting westward, Australia will drift northward, and the Red Sea and the East African Rift system will begin to open as an embryonic ocean basin.

4 Sea water is a complex solution in which more than 80 naturally occurring elements have been so far detected. Over 99.5 per cent of the total dissolved matter in sea water is made up of chloride, sulphate, bromide, bicarbonate, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium in the form of electrically charged particles (ions). The remainder consists of very small amounts of nutrients, such as phosphate, silicate and nitrogen compounds, which are essential for marine animal and plant life.

5 Eddies are small scale ocean currents. Large ocean currents (e.g. the Gulf Stream) may have few hundred km in diameter and can survive as recognizable entities for several weeks while moving within the surrounding ocean.

6 Primary production is the rate of transformation of chemical or solar energy into biomass. Most primary production is based on photosynthesis, although some bacteria can also convert inorganic into organic substances by use of chemical energy (chemosynthesis).

7 It has been estimated that the oceans produce annually some 92,000 million tonnes of plant tissue, compared with 272,000 million tonnes from dry land plants.

8 Ecosystems and habitats are natural ecological units of various size, characterized by animals and plants they contain, physical and chemical conditions of their surrounding, and the interactions between the biotic and abiotic components of a particular ecosystem or habitat. Examples of well defined ecosystems: coral reefs, wetlands, mangroves, seagrass beds, deep seas.

9 Generally, "pollution" is understood as introduction into the environment of a substance which has a deleterious effect on the environment or human health.

10 An estimated 10 per cent of world's coral reefs and 40-50 per cent of the mangrove forests and seagrass beds have been lost already.

11 Eutrophication: over-enrichment of a water body with nutrients, resulting in excessive growth of organisms and oxygen depletion.

12 Rates of exploitation usually outstrip the natural capacity of the resource-base for regeneration or replenishment. Resources under threat are many species of fish, crustaceans and molluscs (e.g., giant clams, economically important species of sea urchins), mangrove trees (harvested mainly for firewood or charcoal production), and the hard corals (collected for construction purposes or

13 Frequently also called "exotic species" since they are normally not part of naturally formed ecosystems.

14 Shelf is the seabed of submarine areas surrounding the continents, usually not deeper than 200 m below sea level.

15 Mercury and lead are typical examples of heavy metal pollutants. Persistent organics (e.g., DDT, PCBs) represent a group of man-made organic substances which naturally do not occur in the environment. Most of the artificial radionuclides are man-made radioactive forms of naturally occurring elements. The common characteristic of these three groups of pollutants is that they are either non-destructible (heavy metals) or are degraded by natural processes only very slowly. In addition, most of them are transported into the sea by atmospheric transfer. These characteristics explain their occurrence in open ocean waters.

16 Dumping is defined as deliberate disposal of wastes into the sea from ships and aircraft.

17 Organic matter released into coastal waters is degraded through a process consuming oxygen dissolved in seawater. If water circulation is not strong enough to replace the consumed oxygen, oxygen is depleted (anoxic conditions) causing large scale mortality of organisms.

18 While the direct discharges and inputs from rivers mainly affect coastal waters, inputs of pollutants from land-based sources carried by the atmosphere affect oceanic regions far away from their original source.

19 On a global scale, rivers are generally the major source of metals in form of undissolved particles, although a significant fraction of this material remains trapped in the sediments of the coastal zones. For the dissolved form of metals, atmospheric and riverine inputs are roughly equal in case of metals, such as copper and nickel, while for zinc, cadmium and particularly lead atmospheric inputs appear to dominate. Although there are large discrepancies between various estimates, it seems that: approximately 90 per cent of lead enters the oceans through the atmosphere; atmospheric inputs account for 80 to 99 per cent of some organic pollutants found in the waters of the open ocean (e.g., PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT, HCB - hexachlorobenzene, and HCH - hexachlorohexane); atmospheric input of nitrogen is considerably greater than the net input from rivers, and the atmospheric input of phosphorous is roughly the same as that entering through rivers. About 90 per cent of lead emissions to the atmosphere are in the northern hemisphere. Due to extensive efforts to control the release of atmospheric lead which has been primarily from combustion of leaded gasoline, the concentrations of atmospheric lead in the oceans are on decline, particularly in the Northern Atlantic.

20 Atmospheric residence time is the average longevity of a substance in the atmosphere.

21 It takes about 75 years for half of the Mediterranean waters to be exchanged with waters from the Atlantic. The Gulf Stream jet is about 50 miles wide and occasionally reaches a depth of 1 000 m, carrying within the Florida Straits an estimated 25 - 30 million cubic metres of water per second, almost a thousand times the transport of Mississippi, with speeds up to 220 km per day.

22 Filter-feeder organisms filter seawater through their gill system in order to obtain food by accumulation of suspended particles which, in polluted waters, may include pathogenic bacteria.

23 In the 1950s and 1960s, commercial fisheries were focused on relatively few areas and species. such as the Atlantic cod on the north-east Atlantic and the Pacific jack mackerel in the east-central Pacific. Over the next 30-40 years different species came under increased pressure as, often, yields declined and as demand for fish increased.

24 In coastal seas, 24-35 per cent of all photosynthesis leading to organic compounds is used by fish which are subsequently captured. This is a similar rate of use to that in extensive aquaculture systems. Offshore, in open oceanic waters, the current utilization of photosynthetic products is only about 2 per cent due to technical and commercial constraints on the exploitation of many oceanic species.

25 El Nino is the name given to periodic invasion of nutrient-poor warm water into the eastern equatorial Pacific, specifically along the western coast of South America. When El Nino appears, biological productivity is sharply reduced severely affecting the overall abundance and total catches not only of a number of small oceanic species, with major economic consequences, but also many other species in the Pacific and Atlantic areas, including squids, tunas, coastal shrimps. hakes and others. The economic consequences of the 1972-73 El Nino event were of catastrophic proportions for Peruvian anchoveta fishery.

26 In some instances and under specific conditions, however, marine pollution may have a considerable impact on fisheries. For instance, between 1992 and 1993, the catch of shrimps declined in Ecuador by 15 per cent (74,000 tonnes), most probably due to extensive use of fungicides in banana plantations.

27 By-catch is the unintended, or non-targeted catch. Discards include that part of the by-catch which is returned to the sea together with the unwanted target species, usually undersized fish.

28 Highgrading is the practice of discarding fish in order to land fish of a higher commercial value.

29 According to an FAO study, the industrial fishing fleets are very far from meeting their operational costs and thrive only on heavy subsidies. The study estimated that, in 1988, the global value of the industrial fishing fleet was US$ 320 billion with operating cost of US$ 92 billion. With an assumed rate of return on capital of 10 per cent (i.e., US$ 32 billion), and a total revenue from fishing of US$ 70 billion, a deficit of US$ 54 billion would have to be sustained in form of subsidies paid world-wide to industrial fishing fleets.

30 Caulerpa taxifolia, an alga that apparently "escaped" from a Mediterranean aquarium in recent years, is fast spreading throughout the Mediterranean changing or even displacing natural biological communities.

31 The situation created by a ctenophore, Mnemiopsis leidyi, in the Black Sea, is one of the best documented story of far reaching consequences which may accompany the invasion of a non-indigenous species in marine environment where natural conditions favour its almost unlimited population growth. The decline in the value of fisheries catches alone, largely attributed to this invasion, was estimated as at least 300 million dollars between mid-1980s and early 1990s.

32 Currently close to 2 million species have been identified globally (56 per cent of them insects), but a conservative estimate of the probable number of species is today considered in the range of 10 to 13 million.

33 For instance, it was estimated that lost revenues from tourism and fisheries due to sediment damage to reefs in Philippines were about 4 times the revenue from the logging project that caused the sedimentation. In another south Asian study it was shown that clearing mangroves for fish ponds leads to an average of 287 kg/ha/year in aquaculture products but a loss of about 480 kg/ha/year in offshore shrimp and fish production.

34 In mid-1980s, the Mediterranean coastline received annually about 51 million international and 45 million domestic tourists or holiday-makers. By mid-1990s, the corresponding figures were 75 and 60 million. Malta, with a surface area of 316 and about 360 thousand inhabitants, received in mid-1990s around one million tourists annually. Earnings from tourism represented close to 30 per cent of Malta's exports in good and services.

35 For example, in the Australian Great Barrier reef marine park an "environmental management fee" levied upon visitors contributed 7 per cent of the revenue of the management authority during 1996-1997.

36 According to a recent study released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the number of extreme precipitation events, such as heavy rainstorms and blizzards, has increased by 20 per cent since 1990.

37 Intertidal ecosystems: ecosystems and habitats located between the high and low tidal limits.

38 Changes in sea level on geological time-scales have clearly had a major influence on near-shore terrestrial systems. Rapid changes, such as those predicted as a result of anthropogenically induced climate change, are likely to be much more pronounced. Intertidal and seasonally flooded coastal environments are of major significance to coastal marine ecosystems because, inter alia, they are irreplaceable for the reproduction of many marine organisms. Estuaries, mud flats, mangroves and coral reefs, among others, play such role and frequently provide essential food supplies for terrestrial birds, reptiles and mammals.

39 It is widely quoted that about two thirds of the global population lives within 100 km of the coastline. However, a recent very detailed study concluded that only 37 per cent of the 1994 population lived within 100 km of coastline, and approximately 44 per cent within 150 km. Sixty-five per cent of cities with population above 2.5 million inhabitants are located along the coast, some of them with all, or significant portion, of their area below current sea-level.

40 Tributyl tin (TBT) is one of these substances. It has been widely used, until fairly recently, in antifouling coating for vessel hulls and aquacultural applications. Its use for anti-fouling purposes has now been restricted in most developed countries but is still being used by the navies of most countries and traded on the black market for certain applications.

41 Methane is the main constituent of gas hydrates. It is a quick-acting high-impact greenhouse gas, at least an order of magnitude more effective as a short-term greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Release of methane from hydrates during fluctuating sea-level of ice ages could have affected the atmosphere several times during the last two million years.

42 The global emissions of carbon dioxide - almost all from burning fossil fuel, cement production and from terrestrial biosphere due to land use change - are estimated as 7.1±1.5 billion (thousand million) tonnes of carbon per year. Of this amount about 2.0±0.8 billion tonnes are absorbed by oceans and 3,2±0.2 billion tonnes are added to already existing carbon in the atmosphere.

43 Much could be learnt from the experience of France with institutional and financial arrangements established for integral management, including pollution control and coastal zone management, of groundwater, surface water, wetlands and territorial seas. Based on a law passed in 1964, and reinforced in 1992, special organizations (agences financieres de bassin), with large degree of operational and financial autonomy, were established for six major hydrological basins to play a central role in implementation of the national water management strategy. Each agency is managed by a river basin committee, chaired by a locally elected official, and consisting of representatives from regional and local institutions, industries (including farmers and fisherman) and other users. The committee prepares, adopts and coordinates the implementation of a regional "masterplan for water development and management", relying predominantly on resources collected on the basis of user- and polluter-pay principle (charges levied on water withdrawal and discharges from all users who affect water quality or modify water regimes). For example: in the period of 1987-1991, the budget of the agency for Rhone-Mediterranean-Corsica region was approximately US$ 1 billion, almost 70% of which was derived from violation of water quality standards.

44 In 1985, the population of Mediterranean coastal regions was estimated at more than 133 million inhabitants, i.e., 38 per cent of the total population of countries bordering the Mediterranean inhabited about 15 per cent of the land of these countries. By year 2025 it is estimated that the coastal population may swell to about 200 million and constitute about 55 per cent of the total population of the countries bordering the Mediterranean.

45 Population growth, when considered in the environmental context, should be viewed not only as a problem of numbers, without reference to consumption habits. The roughly 1.5 billion people in countries with highly developed consumption patters consume the bulk of the world's energy, raw material and food, and produce a unproportionate environmental impact by their lifestyle. It is estimated that a child born in the United States will consume more than twice the amount of grain, and about 10 times as much fossil fuel than a child born in Indonesia or Brazil. The annual increase of 2.6 million people in the United States burdens the world's resources approximately as much as the 17 million people currently added to the population of India each year.

46 The Arbitration affirmed Canada's responsibility for the damage in the United States from copper smelter fumes.

47 The 1946 London Convention for the Regulation of Meshes of Fishing Nets and Size Limits of Fish, and the 1949 Washington International Convention for the North-West Atlantic Fisheries were among the first of such agreements.

48 The 1969 Tanker Owners Voluntary Agreement Concerning Liability for Oil Pollution (TOVALOP), the 1969 Brussels International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, the 1969 Brussels International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, and the 1971 Brussels International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation of Oil Pollution Damage.

49 The 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, and the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

50 The 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter.

51 The 1969 Bonn Agreement for Cooperation in Dealing with pollution of the North Sea by Oil, and the 1972 Oslo Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft.

52 Major global ocean-related conventions adopted in the two decades following the Stockholm Conference: the 1973 London International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); the 1977 London Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage from Offshore Operations Resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of Sea Bed Mineral Resources; the 1979 Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness; and the 1991 UN Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment. (For conventions adopted during the last decade see section on Major steps in the present document.)

53 The negotiation of the Convention was launched by the 1970 decision of the UN General Assembly to update and expand the four Geneva conventions concluded in 1958 (Convention on the High Seas; Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone; Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living resources of the High Seas; Convention on the Continental Shelf). The Convention was adopted in 1982, and entered into force in 1994.

54 A. Pardo, in 1967, in his historic speech at the General Assembly suggested that a common heritage regime replace the traditional regime of the high seas in all open space beyond national jurisdiction. The basic elements of the proposed regime were: (i) the area under the common heritage regime may not be appropriated (it may be used but not owned); (ii) all rights to resources in the common heritage area are vested in mankind as a whole acting through an international organization; (iii) the common heritage area and its resources are managed through an international organization in which all states have the right to participate; (iv) benefits, both financial and deriving from participation in management and exchange and transfer of technologies, are shared; (v) the common heritage area may be used only for peaceful purposes; (vi) the common heritage area must be transmitted environmentally unimpaired to future generations. Pardo largely based his arguments about the wealth contained in the mineral resources of the common heritage area, and about the prospects for their exploitation, on claims of some scientists, which turned out to be somewhat overoptimistic.

55 The 1974 Helsinki Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, the 1974 Paris Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-Based Sources (in North-East Atlantic), and the UNEP-sponsored Regional Seas Conventions for the Mediterranean (Barcelona, 1976), Persian/Arabian Gulf (Kuwait 1978), West and Central Africa (Abidjan, 1981), South-East Pacific (Lima, 1981), Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (Jeddah, 1982), Wider Caribbean (Cartagena, 1983), Eastern Africa (1985) and South Pacific (Noumea, 1986).

56 The general obligation specified in all conventions is to prevent, reduce, abate, combat and control pollution in the convention area. Eight specific obligations are common to all conventions. They include: control of pollution caused by dumping, discharges from ships, exploration and exploitation of continental shelf, and land-based sources; cooperation in cases of emergencies; scientific and technical cooperation, including joint monitoring and research programmes, data and

57 GEF usually covers only the difference ("increment") between the cost of a project undertaken with global environmental objectives in mind, and cost of an alternative project that the country would have implemented in the absence of global environmental concerns, i.e. only the cost of the project related to its contribution to "global benefits"..

58 For instance, Articles 309 and 310 of UNCLOS expressly prohibit states making declarations or statements which purport to exclude or modify the legal effects of the provisions of the Convention in their application to those states. Yet many such declarations and statements have been made.

59 Examples: the Council of Europe's Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy; the Action Plans adopted in the legal framework of UNEP's Regional Seas conventions;

60 Some more recent examples: the 1984 FAO/UNEP Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Management and Utilization of Marine Mammals; the 1985 Montreal Guidelines for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution; the 1991 IMO Guidelines for the Designation of Special Areas and the Identification of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas; the 1994 Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; the 1995 Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities.

61 Man's life on the Earth depends on intricate biological life-supporting systems. These systems, by "serving their own needs", create the conditions in which people can live and prosper. They contribute, directly and indirectly, to human welfare and thus should be considered as part of the total economic value of the planet. According to a recent estimate the total annual global value of ecosystem services as about US$ 33 trillion (million millions). The value of services provided by marine environment was estimated as about US$ 21 trillion: US$ 8.4 trillion for open ocean and US$ 12.6 for coastal areas. Wetlands were estimated as contributing a further US$ 4.9 trillion. The estimated values of services provided by a hectare of open oceans, coastal areas and wetlands were: US$ 252, 4,052 and 14,785, respectively. These figures, considered as minimum estimates due to the inherent uncertainties in the valuation methodology, when compared with the estimated value of global gross national product (about US$ 18 trillion), clearly reveal the enormous value contributed, mostly cost-free, to man's wellbeing by the environment.

62 The Protocol, once in force, will ban dumping of most wastes, except normal dredged material. The net benefit of such measure is, however, suspect since on one hand it will decrease the amount of waste dumped hitherto into the sea, but may substantially increase waste disposal into coastal waters.

63 UNCED made it very clear that massive new and additional financial resources would be needed to implement the recommendations contained in Agenda 21. For the marine sector the annual requirements, in the period 1993-2000, were estimated as about US$ 12.9 billion, including about US$ 0.9 billion from international community on grant or concessional terms. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), established in 1991, in anticipation of recommendation which may be forthcoming from UNCED, is principally evolving as the main (albeit inadequate) source of funding for activities envisaged under the CBD and the UNFCCC. However, GEF does not recognize UNCED, or any other global or regional ocean-related legal agreement, or programmes endorsed by intergovernmental meetings (e.g., GPA/LBA or the Global Ocean Observing System), as policy framework for funding programmes and projects related to protection of marine environment and management of its resources. Consequently, GEF's funding strategy for "international waters" is quite arbitrary and only indirectly and inadequately related to priorities determined by UNCED and other international policy decisions.

64 IGBP involves several thousand scientist in over sixty countries. Areas in which IGBP's significant contributions are expected include: improved global change predictions; scientific analysis of available strategies for mitigation of global environment change; and strengthening the capacity of scientists in developing countries.

65 GOOS is expected to ensure systematic observations adequate for: forecasting climate variability and changes; assessing the state and health of marine environment and its resources, including the coastal zones; and supporting an improved decision-making and management process which takes into account potential natural and man-made changes in the environment, and their effects on human health and resources. Education and training programmes, and technical assistance enabling all countries to participate in and benefit from GOOS are an integral part of the system. Unfortunately, due to its complexity and lack of adequate financial support, GOOS is still largely in planning phase.

66 GIWA's focus is on assessment at sub-regional levels which will be grouped in nine major geographic regions. Geographically each of these regions cover oceanic entities and the freshwater systems associated with them. GIWA is foreseen as a set of analyses of water-related problems and their socio-economic causes (policy/governance, economic and information failures). The outputs of GIWA are expected to provide strategic guidance to the GEF for the identification of priorities at sub-regional, regional and global levels.

67 Drainage basins are defined, in the context of the present document, as river basins, estuaries, coastal terrestrial and wetland areas, associated groundwater systems and adjacent marine areas, including ecosystems supported by them.

68 The inadequacy of scientific underpinning of fisheries management is probably best illustrated by multi-species management schemes aiming at management of ecosystems rather than target organisms. The interactions between predators and their pray are still poorly understood, and the observed variations in fish stocks and the performance of fisheries are further magnified by the non-equilibrium character of both local and wider ecosystem environments.

69 Primary among these are: (i) the investigation of climate feedbacks between ocean circulation and marine biogeochemistry; and ii) the response of the terrestrial biosphere to the increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the interaction of this system with nutrient and water cycles.

70 The active participation of shipping sector in the work associated with a number of IMO conventions is a classical example for cooperation between governments and private sector on issues related to international conventions.

71 A notable exception: Representatives of the contracting parties to the 1976 Barcelona Convention, local communities, socio-economic factors and environmental NGOs have equal status as members of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (a subsidiary body of the 1976 Barcelona Convention).

72 NGOs played an extremely useful and constructive role in the process leading to UNCED and the adoption of Agenda 21, in the evolution of a number of international conventions (e.g.: UNCLOS; the 1996 Protocol to London Convention; the Convention on Biological Diversity), in formulation of global programmes (e.g., the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities) and in promoting General Assembly resolutions related to the protection of marine environment and its resources (e.g., drift-net fishing, straddling stocks). NGOs also play an important role in monitoring the progress in the implementation of such agreements, programmes and resolutions (e.g.: evaluation of the GEF; information on ocean affairs through the Secretary General's report to the General Assembly).

73 The negotiation and adoption of the biodiversity convention was accompanied by great polarization between the views of developing and developed countries. The fundamental rift was over access to, and ownership of, genetic resources. Developing countries demanded sovereign rights over species within their national territories, while developed countries argued for private ownership of products derived from such species in return for compensation to the country of origin. Some countries argued that genetic resources should be treated like any other natural resource, and traded or bartered on the international market, while conservationists proposed cordoning off diversity hot spots to ensure that most species continue to thrive. Still others wanted the genetic resources to remain the common heritage of mankind with free access to all, as has been the case up to now. These controversies are a clear reflection of macroeconomic forces, such as trade policies, which will certainly affect the conservation of biodiversity and food security. The prospect is that the market rights to, and ownership of, genetic resources will be extended and strengthened, giving developing countries greater control over global markets.

74 Only agreements and programmes adopted by intergovernmental bodies are listed in chronological order (according to the date of their adoption). Agreements and programmes without legally binding international obligations are underlined. The large number of General Assembly ocean-related resolutions, and the numerous protocols attached to various conventions, are not listed.