Columbia University oceanographer Arnold Gordon had planned to spend much of this year plumbing the Straits of Indonesia to understand how warm water from the Pacific Ocean mixes with the cooler waters of the Indian Ocean. His field work, financed by a $4.4 million grant, from the National Science Foundadon, would have been part of a five-year study to understand how differences in water temperature affect global weather patterns.

But three years after Gordon first traveled to Jakarta to sketch out the project with his Indonesian collaborators, he has yet to collect any data; in fact, he’s lost his grant. Instead of learning more about ocean currents, Gordon has been taught a bitter les son in international law. The source of his misery is a provision in a seven-year-Old international treaty —which has not yet gone into effect—that allows nations to control access to their coastal waters.

What happened to...

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