In the mid 1950s the oceans had long been subject to the freedom-of-the-sea doctrine — a 17th century principle that limited national rights and jurisdiction over the oceans to a narrow belt of sea surrounding a nation’s coastline. In this accord, the United Nations convened three conferences on the Law of the Sea producing four conventions dealing respectively with the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the high seas, fishing and conservation of living resources in the high seas and the continental shelf. In 1970 after years of intensive efforts, the UN Assembly unanimously declared the seabed and ocean floor beyond the limits of national jurisdiction to be the common heritage of mankind and convened a conference in 1973 which would lead to establishing the International Seabed Authority to organize and control all activities in the Area with a view to administering resources.
The current areas of exploration are as per the following maps produced by the Authority. A web-enabled interface of the ISA Geographic Information System is also available. A link will be inserted into this page in due course.