Marine Life and the Law of the Sea

Almost 70 percent of the earth is covered with oceans and seas and contains an immense number of biological diversity. Marine life is an asset that has a huge contribution towards maintaining the environment of the ecosystem as well as the economic prosperity of a country. But in recent years due to waste, dumping, and pollutions by scientific means, lack of awareness and consciousness these life are in danger. Especially this becomes the new source of income because many people have engaged themselves in illegal trade and business with marine life to earn more income.[1]

MAIN THREATS TO THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT:

Europe is covered with a fore of major seas like the Mediterranean sea, Black sea, Baltic Sea, North Sea, and the North Atlantic and Arctic ocean, So almost all EU 25 countries are covered with coastal areas. According to the EU, the current threats to the marine environment are :

Overfishing:

This is a common problem in Europe’s coastal area. Despite applying management policy to protect these resources from exploitation of several commercial fish stocks have been lost. This excessive amount of fishing also leads to harm towards other marine life such as seals, seabirds, etc.

Alien species:

Deliberate entries of non-indigenous species and genetically modified organisms to the marine environment leads to an adverse effect on the natural ecosystem.

Habitat modification:

Human activities such as the development of ports and harbours, tourism with lack of awareness, and consciousness towards the destruction of the marine environment are increasing day by day which also leads to a threat of marine life.

Pollution and Climate Change:

Industrial and urban discharges lead to environmental pollution which also creates a cause of climate change. This is another reason behind the destruction of marine life.[2]

STATUS OF SOME ENDANGERED MARINE SPECIES:

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 2006 a red list has been prepared which contains  1,500 endangered species.

Groupers:

These are found in rocky and coral reefs of tropics and subtropics around the world. It has a high commercial trade value. According to the food and agriculture organisation, almost 250 thousand tonnes of groupers are harvested in Asia. Now at least 12.4% of groupers are listed in a threatened category, and the other 14 % are near threatened and 30 % are data deficient.

Corals:

Almost 845 reef-building coral species are the essential habitat for many species. Almost more than 27% among them are listed for threatened and more than 20 % are near threatened.

Marine turtles:

According to 2008 six of seven species of marine turtle are listed in threatened categories. Almost 4,600 sea turtles are killed in US fisheries.[3]

THE EUROPEAN MARINE STRATEGY :
The Ecosystem Approach:

According to the Convention on Biological diversity ecosystem is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water living resources which promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The marine strategy proposal is based on the ecosystem approach and focuses on the integrated management of human activities.

The Marine strategy and the new EU Maritime policy:

European Commission has published a green paper on 7th June 2006 with a title “ towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union” which aims to fulfil the objects of the Lisbon strategy and integrate much maritime policy like transport, fisheries, aquaculture, marine research, etc.

Natura 2000 And the Marine Strategy:

This aims to protect environmental status by identifying measures that need to be implemented by its member states. This Natura 2000 ecological network has been created by EU habitats and birds’ directives.[4]

MARINE LIFE PROTECTION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW:

Currently marine life protection is one of the main concerns throughout the world.  Due to the Industrial and scientific pollution, these lives are in danger not only this marine life are also threatened by the overuse of the food industry, medicine, energy, transportation, commerce, etc. Human beings are busy using this life for various purposes but not bother to protect it. So several International conventions have been passed in the last few decades to protect these lives.

THE STOCKHOLM CONFERENCE:  

This conference took place in Stockholm in the year of 1972 to provide legal attention towards environmental crises by the United Nations. According to principle 1 of this declaration that all member states should take the responsibility to protect and improve the environment for the future generation. The principle warns against the destruction of natural resources which also includes marine life. Principle 7 provides the responsibility to all its member states to take necessary steps for the protection of seas and prevent pollution of the seas which may cause the immense loss of human health as well as marine life.

This Stockholm declaration has undoubtedly paved the way towards the 1982 United Nations Convention on the law of the sea which is only concern about the protection of marine life.

This convention has taken place in 1958 which referred to as UNCLOS 1 codified existing customs into four conventions like the Convention on the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the convention on the High seas, the convention on fishing and conservation on the living resources of the High seas .and the convention on the continental shelf but although acceptance by the quite a few states this convention has turned into a big failure . after two years later in 1960 UNCLOS 2 took place which also fails to reach the aim regarding the breadth of the territorial sea. and resolve the maritime issue. Then in the year of 1973 UNCLOS 3  took place where more than 150 countries and specialized agencies took part, lasted for nine years which give birth to the United Nation Convention on the law of the sea in the year of 1982. In the territorial sea rights enjoyed by maritime states in the territorial sea of another state is the right of innocent passage. The exclusive economic zone has the sovereign right to explore, conserve, and managing the natural resources. Art 56 and 61 of UNCLOS  permits the coastal area to make its own conservation laws and states also may not exploit the resources in the exclusive economic zone. This UNCLOS has put the responsibility of marine conservation on the coastal state. According to Art 194 (3), there are four sources of pollution in the sea i.e. relies upon a toxic, harmful, and noxious substance, pollution from vessels, and pollution from the installation of any devices which cause exploration of natural resources of the seabed. Art 194 (5) mandates to take necessary steps to protect and preserve rare and fragile ecosystems. [5]

This marine life is an asset likewise our environment. It is our responsibility to protect it, to conserve it. Laws have no life until and unless we implement it properly and we deliberately fail to do it. It means that we have a lack of awareness and lack of consciousness. We are also not willing to protect and preserve it because we are trapped in a curse of high commercial value. Nowadays people are always running behind to earn millions of dollars annually and for that, they are ready even to destroy natural resources. They do not bother to follow the laws and policies implemented by the states and on the other hand, states have also failed to implement these because they are very weak and fragile. In one word we can say both are interconnected. People are responsible for their wrongful activity and laws are such a weak that they cannot protect the marine life. So only one solution we have that people need to understand their responsibility and laws should be implemented properly if we want to conserve this beautiful asset, the marine life.


[1] Joao Pedro Silve, Wendy Jones et al: Life and the Marine Environment: European Commission

[2] id Silva

[3] Beth Polidoro, Roderic Mast et al : Status of the World’s Marine Species: Researchgate

[4] supra note 1

[5] Howard S. Schiffman: International Law and the Protection of the Marine Environment: Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)


Saptaparni Raha from Adamas University

Editor: Swadha Sharma

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