Have you ever wondered which countries have control over certain parts of the planet’s oceans?
Technically, as all of the oceans on the planet are connected, no one can own an ocean. They all belong to everyone on earth, and they’re for us to share. However, every country can claim its exclusive economic zones, equivalent to 200 nautical miles of ocean off their coastlines.
Through these exclusive economic zones, countries can utilize the ocean’s natural resources, including oil, gas, and fish.
So what about the areas of the oceans that don’t apply to any country’s exclusive economic zones? Those are considered international waters, and any country can still access them, but they must follow maritime laws.
Maritime laws include regulations that govern all nautical matters like conservation, fishing, navigation, etc. It stresses freedom of the high seas, meaning the ocean is for all. However, humans were quick to abuse the oceans, especially when acquiring oil.
By the 1960s, it became clear that humans worldwide were beginning to destroy oceanic life. In 1967, a delegate proposed to the United Nations a way to agree on each country using the oceans more responsibly.
Figuring out this matter took the United Nations a whopping 15 years until they could produce the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was completed in 1982 and put into motion in 1994. It set out a legal framework for all marine activities and established various customs, stating that while the oceans are for all, no nation can have sovereignty over them.
Other rules and regulations laid out by the convention included the ban on testing nuclear weapons in international waters.
As many of us know, pollution and global warming have worsened, making our oceans more vulnerable than ever. But recently, the United Nations settled on common ground to take better care of our planet’s oceans through the High Seas Treaty, which was formally adopted in June 2023.