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.


Law of the Sea; Navigable Waters.

References in periodicals archive ?
toward the territorial waters of occupied Palestine.
According to the Tehama Movement's spokesperson, Ahmed Hibat Allah, "Egyptian fishermen often enter Yemeni territorial waters, but this is the first time we arrested such a high number of them.
They will be tried for intruding into Iranian territorial waters and fishing, Arabic daily Emarat Al Youm reported.
But he was able to contact them again on November 9 when he told them that he and his friends had been arrested by the Iranian Coast Guard although they were in UAE territorial waters.
We understood the fishermen were amateurs who allegedly strayed into Qatar's territorial waters," he said.
Meanwhile, the fishing boat was turned back before it could reach Japanese territorial waters.
South Pars covers an area of 9,700 square kilometers, 3,700 square kilometers of which are within Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.
March 23 2012 (TUR) -- The Spokesperson for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Selcuk Unal said Friday that the Research Vessel Piri Reis was currently carrying out a scientific research in the international waters of the Aegean and in Turkish territorial waters until March 29, 2012.
There is no end of trouble with China over Japan's territorial waters.
official visited Beirut Thursday for talks on the demarcation of territorial waters between Lebanon and Israel to help the two countries explore for oil, AN NAHAR reported on Friday.
Summary: North Korea has threatened military action if the South intrudes into its territorial waters.
Summary: Rabat - In the last few weeks, Algerian trawlers entered individually the Moroccan territorial waters in the north-east of the kingdom before retreating, said on Sunday the Interior Ministry in a statement.