sea, law of the

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law of the sea: international agreement regulating the use and exploitation of the world's oceans. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) calls for limited, and strictly controlled, mining of the seabed; establishes in general a 12-nautical-mile (22-kilometer) limit for territorial waters; gives all nations' ships the right of "innocent passage" through crucial straits; and sets up international antipollution regulations. Most of the industrial nations opposed the restrictions on seabed mining, but Third World nations, the chief beneficiaries of the agreement, favored the treaty and created the majority that passed it. The United States has not signed the treaty, and it and other nations have sought to renegotiate the provisions on seabed mining. The treaty came into force in 1994 after it was ratified by the required 60 nations, but many provisions already had been internationally accepted. See also maritime law; seas, freedom of the.