Application of ABS to marine systems is complex. The sovereign territory of Coastal states extends 12 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline, but they have sovereign rights to the water column and the continental shelf (and thus the biodiversity living there) out to 200 nautical miles. If the continental shelf extends beyond that they have sovereign rights to the continental shelf (but not the water column) out to 350 nautical miles. Beyond that lies ‘The Area’, or ABNJ (Area Beyond National Jurisdiction), where there are currently no access regulations.
Within the zones where a coastal state exerts sovereign rights any access to genetic resources can only take place with the permission of the state, should it chose to regulate access.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has produced guidance on conducting Marine Scientific Research, which can be found here.
UNCLOS has held a series of Preparatory Conferences aimed at developing an Instrument to address activities in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, which will include elements dealing with Marine Genetic Resources. The documents considered by these Peparatory Conferences can be found here.
Most recently (June2019) the draft text of an agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction has been released. It can be found here.