Ships adopted 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea adopted 1994 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea entered into force

Throughout time, humans have been able to use the planet’s vast expanses of ocean spaces to exploit its resources, for voyages of discovery and as trade routes. Until recently, however, the implications of our use of the sea for the marine environment have received scant attention. The oceans were impervious to harm, it was thought, with ships and coastal industries simply using many areas of the sea as a dumping ground. Whether transported to the sea by air, by river or by direct discharge along the coastline, pollution was beginning to affect fish stocks and ocean flora. Up to the end of the 1960s, however, there was little political will to do much about the ever increasing contamination of the marine environment. Only when Liberian oil tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground off the coast of Cornwall in the United Kingdom, did the international community begin taking the marine environment seriously. Torrey Canyon was an environmental catastrophe which revealed an urgent need to protect the sea from oil spills resulting from incidents at sea. Not long after, in 1969, an agreement was signed – the so-called Inter-

national Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties – entitling the coastal state to take measures on the high seas deemed necessary to protect its coasts and affected interests from pollution of the sea by oil. At about the same time other important environmental treaties were adopted with a bearing on pollution of the marine environment of which the most important were perhaps the 1972

London Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter and the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (hereinafter MARPOL 73/78). A global legal framework for the protection and preservation of the

marine environment applicable to all sources of pollution would have to wait, however, until the end of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which started in 1973 and ended in 1982. The result of that conference – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (hereinafter the LOS Convention) – has done more than any other treaty to shape international environmental law and is today a cornerstone of the international law of the sea. Knowledge of the LOS Convention is thus essential for understanding the international rules that apply to some of the most pressing issues of our time, that is, the management of the oceans’ enormous resources and protection and preservation of the marine environment. First, this chapter very briefly outlines the modern history of the law of

the sea and the negotiations leading to the adoption of the LOS Convention. We shall thereafter explore some key aspects of the LOS Convention concerning the protection of the marine environment: the duty of states to protect the marine environment from pollution; the rights of states to combat pollution from different sources; and global and regional cooperation.