Reimagining the law of the sea—evolution or revolution

In her inaugural lecture, Professor Joanna Mossop asked whether changes to regulate ocean activities more sustainably can be achieved through evolution of the law and explored the role that fresh perspectives may play in the future.

The Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Joanna Mossop and the Vice Chancellor stand in the staircase of the Faculty of Law
Left to right—Dean of Law, Professor Lee Godden, Professor Joanna Mossop and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nic Smith.

Professor Mossop began by outlining the role of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) which established maritime zones and regulates the rights that states have in respect of human activities on the ocean such as fishing, research or mining.

"Do UNCLOS and existing processes provide a sufficient basis for responding to new challenges, or is revolution needed?", she asked. "Sustainability has been difficult to achieve."

Professor Mossop described how, over time, activities at sea have increased while the health of the ocean has declined due to pollution, over-exploitation, climate change, and failures in regulation and enforcement. Even though numerous international organisations have had a role in ocean governance, Professor Mossop argued that their efforts have been fragmented and at times inadequate.

Professor Mossop was, however, optimistic about the recent treaty adopted by the United Nations earlier this year— the Agreement on Marine Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement), intended to improve conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

It was her privilege to be part of the negotiations where she supported the head of the New Zealand delegation, as an independent academic adviser, to facilitate discussions about dispute settlement.

Professor Mossop's inaugural lecture was well attended by family, faculty, and distinguished guests. Vice Chancellor Nick Smith welcomed her, citing her many achievements to date.

In her vote of thanks, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Lee Godden, praised Professor Mossop for her incisive grasp of the many intricacies regarding maritime treaties, and thanked her for her important insights.

Professor Godden also thanked Professor Mossop, on behalf of the Faculty of Law, for her commitment to supporting research development during her time as Associate Dean Research. "Joanna’s particular support of early career researchers was of great benefit to the faculty and to be commended," she said.

Professor Godden closed the session by taking the opportunity to pass on thoughts from colleagues grateful for her passion to protect and improve the culture of the law school, for both staff and students .

Listen to Professor Joanna Mossop's inaugural lecture.