Marine Science and the 1974 Law of the Sea Conference

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Science  28 Jun 1974:
Vol. 184, Issue 4144, pp. 1335-1341
DOI: 10.1126/science.184.4144.1335


More intensive and varied use of the oceans and their resources requires a more comprehensive legal reégime than previously. Three years of preparatory work have been completed leading toward the Law of the Sea Conference that opened on 20 June in Caracas, Venezuela. Although the details of the new reégime are still to be negotiated, it appears certain that the coastal nations will gain some form of jurisdiction over the fisheries and mineral resources off their shores. It is probable that a new "economic zone" will be established between a relatively narrow (12-mile) territorial sea and the international ocean space beyond. If, as seems likely, this economic zone is 200 miles wide, it will encompass some 37 percent of the ocean as shown in Fig. 1.

Unless the scientific community can gather more support than it has to date, it seems probable that scientific research within this economic zone will only be possible with the consent of the coastal nation. The United States has proposed a compromise solution which attempts to balance the interests of the scientific community with those of the coastal state. Under the U.S. proposal, a research group abiding by certain specific obligations to the coastal state would be free to carry out its research activities without obtaining explicit consent from the coastal state. To date the U.S. proposal has received little official support from any nation, even from nations with major oceanographic interests.