Lifelines: Canada's East Coast Fisheries

Law Of The Sea – The Exclusive Economic Zone

B. Applebaum, BA LLM


Outline of UNCLOS

21. As indicated, the EEZ concept is part of a much larger structure, a "comprehensive framework for contemporary uses of the sea."[17] However it is reasonably accurate to say that virtually all the various sections of UNCLOS relate, more or less, to the EEZ. The EEZ is, in effect, the hub of a wheel, with many spokes radiating out from it.

22. The EEZ section of UNCLOS is contained in Part V, entitled "Exclusive Economic Zone". Its contents are a "package" of delicately balanced compromises that emerged from almost fifteen years of negotiations carried out first in the United Nations Seabed Committee and then at UNCLOS III.[18] Within the EEZ, that is all waters seaward of the territorial sea limits to a distance of 200 nautical miles, all States continue to have a number of high seas rights related to transit and communication;[19] the coastal State exercises, not sovereignty, but sovereign rights with regard to all natural resources, and has the powers necessary for the exercise of those rights and protection of the environment including the power to arrrest vessels of other States when those vessels violate laws made by the coastal State under the authority it has under the Convention.

23. Part V concentrates on living resources. It provides detailed rules the coastal State must follow in providing for the conservation of these resources, and in providing for access to these resources by vessels of other States when the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the levels of catch it has determined to be maximal within safe limits. Specific regimes apply to different types of resources including stocks that straddle EEZ limits and stocks that straddle marine boundary lines between States, highly migratory species e.g. tuna, marine mammals, anadromous species e.g. salmon, catadromous species e.g. eels, and sedentary species e.g. scallops. Part V also contains provisions on rights of access for landlocked and "geographically disadvantaged" States, enforcement of coastal State laws, and delimitation of marine boundaries between coastal States.

24. Apart from its EEZ section UNCLOS contains provisions, inter alia, on:

    a) the territorial sea, permitting all States to extend theirs to 12 nautical miles and establishing rules for delimitation and for the right of innocent passage through it for the vessels of all other States;
    b) straits used for international navigation, safeguarding essentially the right of innocent passage through such straits affected by extensions of territorial sea limits to 12 nautical miles;
    c) the continental shelf, concerning delimitation, rights of the coastal State and other States, and requirements for payments by coastal States to the international community when exploitation takes place on their continental shelves outside 200 nautical miles;
    d) the high seas, codifying its freedoms and a large number of rules governing uses of the high seas;
    e) "The Area" i.e. the seabed outside coastal State jurisdiction, defining it as the "common heritage of mankind" and providing for its governance and exploitation;
    f) "Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment" establishing rules aimed at the prevention of pollution and establishing rights of coastal States to legislate and take action to protect the waters within their EEZ's; and
    g) "Settlement of Disputes", providing generally for compulsory binding systems of adjudication to deal with disputes that arise regarding the interpretation and application of the Convention.

25. The Convention came into force in 1994,[20] following the deposit of the 60 ratifications necessary for this purpose. As of the date of this paper a number of major States, including Canada and the U.S., are not yet party to the Convention; however, under customary international law, many of the provisions of UNCLOS, including those concerning the EEZ, apply to them.

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