The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
Simplified diagram of maritime zones and distribution of shared, straddling and highly migratory stocks as defined by UNCLOS - in articles 63(1), 63(2) and 64
FAO/Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) was adopted on 10 December 1982 and came into force on 16 November 1996. The Convention establishes a comprehensive legal regime covering all aspects of the seas and oceans. These include: universally agreed limits on the territorial sea, contiguous zone and the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf; the regimes of innocent passage through the territorial sea, transit passage through straits used for international navigation and archipelagic sea lanes passage through archipelagic waters; a framework for conservation and utilization of the living marine resources; a new regime for the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction; new rules for protection and preservation of the marine environment from pollution; new rules on marine and scientific research; and, the peaceful settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Convention.
Importance to fisheries
With regard to fisheries, the Convention establishes a regime for the conservation and management of fisheries resources on the basis of the area they occupy (the internal waters, archipelagic waters, and territorial seas, exclusive economic zones, continental shelf areas and high seas) or the types of fish stocks (straddling stocks, highly migratory species, marine mammals, anadromous stocks and catadromous species) that occur in them. States are required to conserve and manage living marine resources in the areas that are within their jurisdiction or the areas over which they exercise sovereign rights. States are also required to cooperate to conserve and manage specific stocks, particularly straddling fish stocks and highly migratory species without prejudice to the rights of the coastal state where such stocks occur within their jurisdiction or in areas where the coastal state exercises sovereign rights. There are varying degrees of rights and duties of states with respect to the conservation and management of fisheries resources and the factors that have to be taken into account in different regimes. However, the common basic principle of conservation and management of fisheries resources that applies in many of these regimes is that the allowable catch shall be determined and that conservation measures be adopted to maintain or restore populations of harvested species at levels which can produce maximum sustainable yield, as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors.