• Short Summary

    The United Nations Law of the Sea Conference begins it eighth full session in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday (19 March).

  • Description

    GV Ship in rough sea near Thursday Island, Northern Australia; cu bows of boat in rough weather; GV PULL OUT TO VLS small boat (3 shots)

    UNDER WATER SHOTS Fish in water (2 shots)

    GV EXT TILT DOWN United Nations Secretariat, Venezuela

    GV INT PAN TO MCU President Echeverria of Mexico addressing delegates at 1974 Law of Sea conference, Caracas, Venezuela; GV INT President Echeverria finishing speech, applauded by delegates

    OFF ICELAND 1975: GV Icelandic gunboat Thor; MS two crew on deck of British frigate HMS Brighton; MS Crew of Frigate with Icelandic vessel in background

    SV Japanese fishing vessel; Cu electronic device lowered over-board into sea; squid being hauled aboard (3 shots)

    SV Japanese whaling vessel returning to Ojika Machi harbour; GV workers watching vessel; GV whale being brought ashore (3 shots)

    MS US coastguard plotting chart; MS Coastguard operating instruments: SAV Coastguard boat advancing on Japanese vessel; GV Coastguard pane above sea (5 shots)

    CU Crude oil on sea surface; UNDERWATER SHOT oil-covered seaweed: MS diver showing oil on seabed (3 shots)

    UNDERWATER SHOT Diver in water; GV fish among coral

    Initials BB/

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: The United Nations Law of the Sea Conference begins it eighth full session in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday (19 March). One hundred and fifty countries will be represented at the talks, which have called the longest-running and most ambitious of their kind in diplomatic history.

    SYNOPSIS: Seawater covers more than two-thirds of the earth's surface. Since December 1973, the Conference has been trying to draw up a set of rules to govern the use and exploitation of oceans and seas. The chief driving force behind this attempt is a 1970 United Nations resolution. This declares the deep-sea area beyond the jurisdiction of countries, is, with its resources, the common heritage of mankind, So far, the effort to translate that principle into an entirely new body of international law has taken up a total of more than a year's worth of talks and negotiations.

    The first working session of the Conference was held in Caracas, Venezuela, from June to August 1974. One hundred and forty-seven countries were represented. Since then, there have been six other full sessions, the last in the United Nations six months ago, and a series of other consultations and talks. It is hoped the completed convention, will be signed in Caracas in 1980...after the forthcoming session, and possibly another, later this year.

    With an agreed convention, disputes like this one, the 'Cod War' between Britain and Iceland, might not arise. The quarrel then, in 1975, was over Iceland extending its territorial waters to two hundred miles, for fishing reasons. The Conference has already generally agreed a solution for such limits.

    Most of the issues have already been dealt with. three has also been progress on settling disputes over fishing areas, and on rules under which landlocked countries could legally fish in the seas of other countries. The remaining issues included some of the most contentious, such as those related to exploitation of the massive potential wealth of the sea and sea bed.

    Participants hope the present session will be able to draw up an improves article for protecting sea mammals, especially the rules for hunting whales.

    Another topic needing further discussion is the definition of the outer limits of the continental shelf ...the sea bed that surrounds most countries. These boundaries could be vital for claims on oil and gas discoveries.

    More debate is likely on marine pollution. Several proposals have already been made, following the major oil-spilled disaster last year when the Amoco Cadiz tanker broke up off the French coast, causing major damage to the holiday industry and wildlife.

    The biggest problem to be solved is how to draw up a system for mining vast deposits of mineral-rich stones that lie in deep waters. Delegates have already reached general agreement that an international authority should regulate exploration and exploitation...but deep differences still need to be resolved.

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