This book commemorates 1998 as the UN International Year of the Ocean. The chapters contained herein recognise the strategic and security significance of the oceans and seas of the Asia-Pacific region. The book also recognises that the development of management regimes for the 70 per cent of the earth's surface covered by water remains a great challenge for the global community. These management regimes will also reduce the risk of disputes arising over different ocean uses or conflicting claims to maritime jurisdiction.
The paradox with this challenge is that—despite the large expanse of the world's oceans—looking after the oceans was not seen as a particularly demanding or complex task until the relatively recent past. The concept of oceans governance (or oceans management, as it is sometimes called—to remove any implication that the seas can be governed by any particular country or countries) has only emerged in the last two decades or so in response to concerns over the health of the world's oceans, the risks of marine pollution and the threat of over-fishing. The new interest in oceans management is also a reflection of the desire of developing and emerging nations to have some say about, and some control over, the oceans and their resources.
Throughout earlier centuries, the oceans were perceived to be bountiful and limitless. The doctrine of the ‘freedom of the seas’ prevailed. There was enough for all and everyone could take what they liked—or conversely dump whatever they liked in the seas. Ships of the great imperial navies were free to sail where they liked through