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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: May 2018

8 - Protection of the marine environment



Main Issues

Given that a healthy marine environment provides a foundation for all life, marine environmental protection is an issue of considerable importance in the law of the sea. In principle, the law regulates marine pollution according to its sources, such as land- based pollution, vessel-source pollution, dumping, pollution from seabed activities under national jurisdiction, pollution from activities in the Area, and pollution through the atmosphere. Accordingly, this chapter will seek to examine the rules of international law regulating marine pollution arising from these sources. Particular focus will be on the following issues:

  • (i) What is the significance of the LOSC in marine environmental protection?

  • (ii) Why do rules regulating land-based marine pollution remain weak at the global level?

  • (iii) What are the new elements to regional treaties in the regulation of land-based pollution?

  • (iv) What are the mechanisms for regulating vessel-source marine pollution?

  • (v) How is it possible to ensure compliance with relevant rules governing marine environmental protection?


    Currently marine pollution is an increasing threat to a healthy marine environment. Indeed, marine pollution may severely damage the environment, including ecosystems, and human health. It would be no exaggeration to say that the welfare of coastal populations relies essentially on a sound marine environment. Thus there appears to be a general sense that the protection of the marine environment is considered as a common interest of the international community as a whole.

    Despite its vital importance, the regulation of marine pollution has attracted little attention until recently because of low awareness of environmental protection. It is only since World War II that international regulation of marine pollution has begun to develop. In the 1950s, the development of treaties regulating marine pollution was still slow moving. While the first multilateral treaty regulating oil pollution, i.e. the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, was adopted in 1954, the effect of this Convention was only limited.

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