Every coastal or maritime nation exercises control over the waters of their coasts. To be precise they control the area in a 12-mile radius from the shore, and any crime that happens in that radius is subject to legal pursuit of that country.
However, what happens when a crime occurs outside of that border or in international water? Logically, since there is no state law there, no crime was committed so everything is permitted, right? Luckily, this is not entirely the case, since a country where a vessel or aircraft is registered has the right the claim the investigation, should a crime occur on that vessel or aircraft. Alternatively, there is a concept of universal jurisdiction, which a willing party can use to justify legal investigation against someone.
Even though there are laws that technically hold someone accountable for the crimes committed in international waters, it is still difficult to exercise legal rights. Since this is a number of illegal activities takes place here, and here are some examples.
Gambling is illegal in some towns or countries, so in order for people to gamble legally, they would board a ship and travel to international waters, where the games can commence. Gambling ships are usually large vessels that contain a whole casino or other forms of entertainment below the deck. Moreover, some cities have pretty high fees for ships that are hosting gambling entertainment on the piers, so by traveling further away from the costs they can avoid unnecessary expenses.
Decades ago the above mentioned territorial 12-mile radius was only 3 miles, so these ships did not have to be too far away from the shore. Furthermore, organized crimes were also common on these gambling ships, so in order to make it easier to fight criminal activity, the radius in which state law is active was increased.
Back in the new year of 2018, a group of New Zealanders built a small island in coastal waters. They brought on a picnic table on that island, along with their liquor and joked that they were in international water. This was done in order to avoid a ban on public drinking, so the group was allowed to have their fun, even though they should have technically be punished.
Luckily the authorities of New Zealand were impressed with their creativity and devotion and even admitted they are sad for not thinking of it themselves. The group was not punished. and was allowed to enjoy their New Year celebration.
Water and Air Pollution
Boats are used to smuggle toxic waste which is dumped once they reach the open seas. This is one of the more severe crimes as it affects our environment and it is harmful to animals living in the ocean. Perhaps this will change in the future, as satellite images advance and we are able to capture solid evidence of crime more effectively.
Since there are no labor laws in international waters, crew members are barely paid sometimes. This, of course, can easily lead to dependence of the crew, as they do not have enough money to leave their employer and must continue to work under unfavorable conditions.
In order to preserve our ecosystem fishing laws are enforced, but this is not the case on the open seas. Here nobody gets punished for taking as much fish as their boat can carry, which has strong negative consequences on the fish population. If this goes on unregulated, it will lead to serious consequences in the future.