Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of Original Version



Marine Affairs


Like the ocean itself, the international institutions and organizations tasked with governing maritime activities are sprawling and complex. The contemporary ocean governance regime comprises the rules, norms, principles, and decision-making procedures designed to collectively manage the myriad users and multiple uses of the Earth’s oceans. The regime itself has a rich and storied history, culminating in a flurry of regime-building activities in the second half of the twentieth century. In general, ideas about the collective governance of ocean space emerged alongside growth in human activities on and under the seas, and as the intensity of uses increased, so, too, did the calls for formulating international consensus about the status of marine space and maritime resources. This chapter reviews the historical development and contemporary status of the ocean governance regime. It lays the foundation for deeper analyses of climate change and ocean governance in subsequent chapters.