Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The recent trend of claims to the ocean and its riches has led far beyond the liberal twelve nautical mile territorial sea limit that the United States is prepared to recognize. In particular, two documents, the Declaration of Santo Domingo, proposing a "patrimonial sea" of 200 miles, and the draft articles on an "exclusive economic zone" of 200 miles submitted by Kenya, are likely to find much favor at the substantive session of the Third Law of the Sea Conference to be held at Caracas in the summer of 1974. Emerging from conflicts of interest, which have gradually eroded the historic boundaries of the territorial sea and the Continental Shelf, is a much different concept involving multiple jurisdictional zones of varying dimensions for the coastal state. Although the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf and Contiguous Zones provided that contiguous zones should not exceed the twelve mile limit, the widespread appeal by individual states for acknowledgment of broader zones for special purposes must be taken as an indicator of current state practice and preferences.

The position of this paper is that the existence of "zones" of national jurisdiction outside territorial waters need not be viewed as damaging to the orderly development and codification of international law. In fact, a concept of multiple jurisdictions is perhaps necessary if the conflicts of interest over navigation, commerce, fishing, mineral extraction, conservation and pollution are to fall within any directives for resolution in international law. The problem is that the concept may destroy what it seeks to save if the nature and dimensions of the jurisdictional zones fail to focus on the most central of the disputed issues. What is needed is a comprehensive treatment of all of the jurisdictional issues affecting the shallow waters along the world's coastlines, not a piecemeal analysis of one type of jurisdiction judged merely on its own merits.