Ocean Space

Ocean spaces and ecosystems are often connected in complex and multiscale ways and resist fixed legal delineations. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), by contrast, divides ocean space into different maritime zones thus fragmenting the ocean environment and subsuming each fragment to a different legal regime. Additionally, phenomena such as climate change and land-based marine pollution challenge the legal separation between land and sea. Marine and terrestrial ecosystems remain thus legally disjointed disregarding complex interdependencies. And while the preamble of UNCLOS does recognize that “the problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole”, it arguably remains essentially sectoral in approach.

A number of systemic challenges raise novel and profound questions which problematize the current Law of the Sea and Ocean Governance (LOSOG) framework. First, material challenges derive from multiple and interconnected socio-environmental pressures, including climate change, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution and ocean acidification. Second, epistemic challenges, linked to the emergence of the ecological model of knowledge, shifts attention from parts to wholes and from static equilibrium to dynamic processes. Third, dynamic challenges such as ocean justice and global and regional geopolitical dynamics, necessitates the urgency to assess whether the balance of interests captured in LOSOG can address the tensions between protection and use, individual and collective interests and between the global North and the global South.

These deep, interrelated challenges raise important questions related to the relation between law, sea and space, and prompt legal scholars to interrogate and problematize LOSOG, the Law of the Sea Convention and its key principles, as well as the spatio-legal architecture delineating ocean space in discrete maritime zones. We want to focus in particular on the limits and possibilities of LOSOG to respond to the fundamental challenges outlined above, but also, importantly, on future trajectories and imaginaries, with the view of ensuring just, resilient and sustainable ocean futures.

We invite papers addressing the Conference theme, broadly constructed. Examples of topics that would fall within the scope of the Conference includes the spatial architecture constructed by the law of the sea; challenges posed by ocean connectivity of currents, species, domains etc.; integrated ocean management; marine spatial planning; protection and preservation of the marine environment in the land-sea interface; limits and possibilities of thinking land and sea together within and beyond the LOSOG framework; effects of emerging issues threatening the marine environment, such as climate change, marine plastic pollution, ocean acidification etc.

We invite papers to explore the limits and possibilities of the current LOSOG, critically analyzing the LOSOG framework and contributing to shaping possible futures both within and beyond that framework.