Summary and Keywords
The World Ocean, the interconnected system of oceans and major seas on Earth, is the basis for climate stability, the hydrological cycle, and many aspects of biological diversity. It provides a wide range of benefits, from serving as a principal sink for carbon dioxide, one of the key greenhouse gases driving anthropogenic climate change, to being a source of subsistence, trade, revenue, jobs, cultural meaning, and recreation. However, the World Ocean is vulnerable to human-induced impacts. Indeed, a substantial amount of the World Ocean has experienced major disturbances, especially in fisheries. The key regulation and politics of marine fisheries and pollution can be divided into three distinct phases, corresponding to three eras in the history and politics of the World Ocean: precolonial era, colonial era, and industrial era. These eras are associated with distinct modes of production and use of the ocean: small coastal precolonial artisanal production, colonial expansion under mare liberum or “freedom of the seas,” and the era of contemporary globalization starting with the Law of the Sea. International fisheries regulatory bodies have shown extreme concern regarding overfishing, but not much for larger ecosystem concerns such as climate change. In addition, international fishing regulation has consistently and regularly suffered from the so-called “regulatory overfishing.” In the case of ocean pollution, three important regulatory regimes that emerged at about the same time are the 1972 Oslo Convention, the 1972 London Dumping Convention, and the 1974 Paris Convention.
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