Oceans as Territory

3ROceans - Work package 3: Territory

Oceans as Territory

This work package analyzes the regulatory and representational characteristics of the modality transformation that made the ocean were assigned features typical of territories that were to be governed by national sovereignty, or on the other hand, by international agreements. Its focus is on the 20th century and present-day challenges.

The work package focuses in particular on the interplay between scientific representations of the oceans and the evolution of sovereign resource spaces. The work package consists of three separate sub-projects that will approach both historical and contemporary concerns. The individual studies are described briefly below.

How Our Oceans Got Numbered

Principal investigator: Gard Paulsen

This sub-project will analyze how modelling and mathematical representations of the oceans became legitimate and authoritative in controversies over sovereignty and territorial rights in the post war period. It will investigate the portrayal of the seafloor, the estimation of fish stocks and the modelling of ocean circulation as partaking in the conceptualization and confinement of the high seas, including the jurisdiction of the continental shelves by costal states and establishment of the economic exclusive zones. The project will in particular analyze how communities formed around the use of computers in widely dispersed scholarly fields such as marine engineering, oceanography and marine geology, and eventually gained authority in the regulation of ocean use. As such, it is pertaining to problems and approaches of the history of science and technology, as well as science and technology studies (STS), probing the question of the role of expertise in policymaking and regulatory practice.

Underwater Cultural Heritage as a Claim on the Commons: International Cooperation and a Move Against the Commodification of the Sea Resources

Principal investigator: Lucas Lixinski

This project will focus on the evolution of legal regimes thinking about cultural resources located underwater. In 2001, the UNESCO General Conference approved the Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCHC), which is the most thorough treaty regulating cultural resources located underwater. This came about as a response to technological change in deep seabed exploration, and is an attempt at curbing commercial salvage of shipwrecks and the common law regime that had been developed for it.

The UCHC attempts to regulate the commons by invoking general principles of the law of the sea, but with a view to prevent the commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage. In that respect, the UCHC makes a claim to the commons that sits uneasily with law of the sea regimes, and it also conveys an image of the oceans as a repository of historical knowledge. By representing the oceans as a repository of culture that must be preserved, this turns the ocean into a resource that does not belong to any state in particular.

The cooperation principles enshrined in the UCHC will serve as a case study of how alternative and non-exclusive constructions of sovereignty can be operationalized in legal regimes.

Freedom of the Seas in the 21st Century

Principal investigator: Rosemary Reyfuse

This project aims to identify the contemporary content of the principle of the freedom of the seas. Despite its acceptance as a fundamental principle of the law of the sea, the precise content of freedom remains subject to conflicting interpretations and applications. Increasing claims by states seeking both to limit access to and the conduct of activities in, ocean areas have serious implications for the exercise by all states of their freedom of the seas. This project seeks to analyze and evaluate the impact of these claims.