Territorial Waters

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"We have been referred to an Iranian Court facing charges of intruding on Iranian territorial waters," Rashid told his father, who has already lodged a complaint at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said this matter reduces the amount of sea wealth possessed by Yemen; therefore, Yemeni fishermen are forced to leave Yemeni territorial waters in search of fish to catch.
Wang said the Japan Coast Guard sent 21 ships to intercept the Taiwanese fishing boats -- which numbered around 60, some of which remained outside Japan-claimed territorial waters -- when they reached 18 nautical miles southwest of the islands.
Japan set its territorial waters along the five straits -- Tsugaru, between the main Honshu and Hokkaido islands, Soya, Osumi, Tsushima and Korea -- at 3 nautical miles (5.6 kilometer) instead of the maximum allowable limit of 12 nautical miles (22 km) out of the view that ''it is appropriate to guarantee unrestricted passage of foreign ships as a maritime state,'' Nakasone said.
Both Mrs Beckett and the Ministry of Defence were adamant that they had been in Iraqi territorial waters at the time.
The Arabic language Al-Alam television reported: "They will be prosecuted for illegally entering Iranian territorial waters."
The Western Mindanao military chief observed on Sunday that China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships have stopped passing through Philippine territorial waters following several diplomatic protests by the government.
NNA - A gunboat belonging to the Israeli enemy violated on Monday at 6.40 am, the Lebanese territorial waters off Ras Naqoura, and infiltrated some 110 meters into the sea tossing a sonic bomb into the regional waters, a communique by the Lebanese army indicated.
KARACHI -- Pakistani authorities on Friday arrested 22 Indian fishermen for illegal fishing in territorial waters of the country and seized their three boats.
MOSCOW, Nov 25 (KUNA) -- Russia said Sunday it seized three Ukrainian naval ships because they allegedly violated Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea.
I was delighted to read the news item in your esteemed daily (8th, January) that Pakistan has released a total of 147 Indian fishermen who had been arrested for violation of maritime borders and allegedly fishing in Pak territorial waters. It was a great step of Pakistan to release the common citizens of India whose families were eagerly waiting for their guardians.
Summary: New Delhi [India], December 15 (ANI): The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) has arrested 28 Indian fishermen for allegedly fishing illegally in the country's territorial waters in the Arabian Sea.