PSCI 323
Law and Politics of the Sea Spring 2025
Division II
Cross-listed CAOS 323

Class Details

Can international law save the seas? That is one current bet. The sea law regime centers on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which gathers into one place what most countries consider to be scattered ancient laws about piracy, transit through other countries’ territorial waters, fishing, jurisdiction over ships, and so forth. It also creates ocean zones, with rules for each, and a system for taxing firms that it licensed to exploit minerals on the high seas, and sharing the proceeds with developing countries. It seeks to mitigate conflicts among countries and companies as they energetically compete to exploit the seas. In 2023, UNCLOS launched a follow-on treaty, the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), which adds areas in the high seas that all nations commit to protect. This course explores the politics and practices that arise from UNCLOS and BBNJ. We engage with the agreements’ history, content, and exclusions, examine the incentives they provides states and criminals, and assess the way that geopolitical and climate collapse create new opportunities and constraints for states, firms, international organizations, and activists. Topics include piracy, naval officers’ guidelines, conflict in the South China Sea, bonded labor, refugee quarantine on islands, marine genetic resources, Arctic transit, and ocean pollution. This is a way to understand major deals regarding the oceans; it is also a way to understand what it means to consider an international legal agreement a solution to something.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 18
Expected: 12
Class#: 3692
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Three 6-page papers, longer final paper, class participation including weekly writing
Prerequisites: Introduction to International Relations, and/or International Law, or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: Political science majors, Marine Studies majors, seniors
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
CAOS 323 Division II PSCI 323 Division II
Attributes: PSCI International Relations Courses

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