ABSTRACT

From the seventeenth century onward it was usual for coastal states to claim a 3-nautical mile territorial sea – about how far an onshore canon could fire. The rest of the ocean was high seas and not subject to national laws – though customary international law applied, see Chapter 1. Ocean resources were effectively open access. However, in 1945 through the Truman Proclamation the USA claimed the resources on and under its continental shelf, setting off a progression of ocean enclosures as other countries followed suit – a kind of “land grab”. Accordingly, in 1947 Chile and Peru, both with narrow continental shelves, claimed 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zones, and many other countries then chose to do so. In fact, from 1982, under the Law of the Sea, Part V, Article 55, a country is allowed to claim its continental shelf out to 350 nautical miles if the continental shelf extends that far. These enclosures account for 38 million square nautical miles of ocean space – about 36 percent of ocean surface area, 90 percent of its commercial fisheries and 87 percent of its oil reserves. 1