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Protection of the marine environment
An introduction
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Many parts of the ocean are badly polluted and suffering from a serious loss of biodiversity as a result of human activities. After outlining the causes of this state of affairs, this chapter explains the framework of international law that has been designed to protect the marine environment. It discusses the approach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to controlling pollution, including its definition of marine pollution, and to conserving marine biodiversity. The chapter also introduces other global treaties for protecting the marine environment and various regional treaties, including those developed under the UN Environment Programme’s Regional Seas Programme. The detailed provisions of all these treaties are examined in the following two chapters. In this chapter attention is also drawn to the fact that international human rights law is beginning to be used to protect the marine environment. In addition, the chapter considers a number of principles that have been developed by the international community to guide environmental policy-makers and legislators. They include: the no harm principle; environmental impact assessment; the precautionary principle; the polluter pays principle; sustainable development; the ecosystem approach; co-operation; and the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.

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