Territorial Waters


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Related to Territorial Waters: Exclusive Economic Zone

Territorial Waters

The part of the ocean adjacent to the coast of a state that is considered to be part of the territory of that state and subject to its sovereignty.

In International Law the term territorial waters refers to that part of the ocean immediately adjacent to the shores of a state and subject to its territorial jurisdiction. The state possesses both the jurisdictional right to regulate, police, and adjudicate the territorial waters and the proprietary right to control and exploit natural resources in those waters and exclude others from them. Territorial waters differ from the high seas, which are common to all nations and are governed by the principle of freedom of the seas. The high seas are not subject to appropriation by persons or states but are available to everyone for navigation, exploitation of resources, and other lawful uses. The legal status of territorial waters also extends to the seabed and subsoil under them and to the airspace above them.

From the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, international law set the width of territorial waters at one league (three nautical miles), although the practice was never wholly uniform. The United States established a three-mile territorial limit in 1793. International law also established the principle that foreign ships are entitled to innocent passage through territorial waters.

By the 1970s, however, more than forty countries had asserted a twelve-mile limit for their territorial waters. In 1988 President ronald reagan issued Executive Proclamation 5928, which officially increased the outer limit of U.S. territorial waters from three to twelve miles (54 Fed. Reg. 777). This limit also applies to Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Reagan administration claimed the extension of the limit was primarily motivated by national security concerns, specifically to hinder the operations of spy vessels from the Soviet Union that plied the U.S. coastline. Another reason for the extension was the recognition that most countries had moved to a twelve-mile limit. In 1982, at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, 130 member countries ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which included a recognition of the twelve-mile limit as a provision of customary international law. Although the United States voted against the convention, 104 countries had officially claimed a twelve-mile territorial sea by 1988.

Cross-references

Law of the Sea; Navigable Waters.

References in periodicals archive ?
According to him, "the Egyptian fishermen did not enter Yemeni territorial waters, they were fishing near Yemeni waters, but because of the unrest in Yemen the Houthis arrested them.
Bahrain-based fishermen have repeatedly been arrested in the last few years for accidentally straying into Qatar's territorial waters.
The Russian Coast Guard service is actively involved in fighting illegal fishing in Russia's territorial waters and frequently detains foreign-flagged poaching vessels.
This requirement would make it extremely difficult for the JCG to act swiftly if a large number of vessels entered the nation's territorial waters simultaneously.
He stressed, "Iraqi Navy is now capable of protecting Iraq's territorial water surrounding oil ports.
The meeting focused on the demarcation of territorial waters between Lebanon and Israel to allow the two countries to explore for oil, the paper said.
North Korea's KCNA news agency quoted a senior official as saying: "Should the South side's intrusions into the territorial waters of our side continue, the DPRK (North Korea) will put into force practical military measures to defend its waters as it had already clarified and the south side will be held fully accountable for all the ensuing consequences,"
KARACHI, January 14, 2010 (Frontier Star ): Indian officials arrested seven Pakistani fishermen during hunting from Pakistani territorial waters here on Thursday.
Summary: Yemeni coast guards have seized a boat they which illegally entered the country's territorial waters and detained five Iranians on board, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
The move followed the freeing earlier this week by the Kingdom of two Iranian vessels that had entered the Kingdom's territorial waters.
Iran claimed the British military personnel were operating illegally in Iranian waters when taken hostage and broadcast statements by several of the captured sailors saying that they intruded into Iran's territorial waters.
Both Mrs Beckett and the Ministry of Defence were adamant that they had been in Iraqi territorial waters at the time.