The theme of the 2022 NCLOS Conference is 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.

The speakers approach the conference theme from a broad perspective, and will deliver presentations and contribute to panel discussions on the following themes:

  1. Ocean space and climate change
  2. Transcending borders: Ecosystem-based [and integrated] ocean governance
  3. Spatiality and law across sectors
  4. Ocean space, dynamism and law
  5. Conceptualizing ocean space