Territorial Waters

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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.


Law of the Sea; Navigable Waters.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"Traditional fishing applies only in the territorial sea and archipelagic waters.
In sum, at the same time that the territorial seas component presents significant human rights risks, the operation's design exploits the current boundaries on extraterritorial human rights protection.
(23) "[B]ecause courts must construe federal statutes consistently with international law if at all possible, and under international law it would not be lawful for the United States to assert 'territorial jurisdiction of the United States' over" lands outside its borders and territorial seas, such as the continental shelf, "[section] 7(3) must be construed accordingly." (24) Necessarily, international law precludes the reach of "territorial jurisdiction" to a continental shelf beyond a territorial sea.
(81) The court reasons that the extraterritorial application of the LHWCA "to the high seas, where no single nation is sovereign, cannot compel the conclusion that Congress also intended the Act to apply to the territorial sea, internal waters, and adjoining land of other nations, all areas in which those nations exercise sovereign control." (82) The court finds the support of the Director for the position that the LHWCA applies in foreign territorial waters unpersuasive as he cites no authority.
territorial seas), with 637 F.3d at 991-92 (applying DOHSA to territorial waters because of Congress's understanding).
The high seas do not include non-navigable waters or the sovereign territorial seas and navigable internal waters of the United States and foreign countries.
Whether the waters are internal waters or territorial seas does not obviate the right of foreign-flagged ships to transit them, it merely changes the navigational regime that applies to such ships.
According to Posner and Sykes, resources at sea are outside the land territory (3) of any individual nation (nations and their citizens may assert competing claims to the common pool resources of the sea): international externalities are a commonplace with activities at sea, states have a weaker interest in regulating behavior in the contiguous zone than in the territorial seas, whereas states cannot agree on all rules for the exploitation of seabed minerals because of conflicting interests.
In answering the question whether native title can be recognized in the EEZ of the claim area, Finn J noted the history of the steps taken by which British and then Australian sovereignty 'was acquired over distinct areas of territorial seas, the airspace over them and their respective seabeds and subsoil.' (174) This history spanned over 130 years and involved five separate dates, from 1872 to 2006.
This means that there was no difference between incidents on the high seas and those in the territorial seas of coastal states.
Different navigational rights apply depending on the classification - that is, straits, archipelagic sea-lanes, territorial seas, and high seas.