The law of the Sea has changed the face of the Pacific and is still relevant today as countries challenge it with their shipping, testing, etc. States, countries, and territories traditionally exercised sovereignty over a 3-mile belt of territorial sea along their shores. The high seas beyond this these limits could be freely used by anyone.
Then on September 28, 1945, President Harry Truman declared U. S. sovereignty over the natural resources on the adjacent continental shelf. Thus U. S. fishing boats soon became involved in an acrimonious dispute with several South American countries over their rich anchovy fishing grounds. In 1952 Chile, Ecuador, and Peru declared a 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) along their shores.
In 1958 the United Nations created a Conference of the Law of the Seas in Geneva, which aimed to accept the national control of countries over shelves up to 200 meters deep. Agreement could not be reached. National claims continued, so in 1974 another U. N. Conference of the Law of the Seas was convened. In 1982 a complex agreement, signed by 159 states and other entities, extended national control over 40% of the world’s ocean. The territorial sea was increased to 12-nautical miles and the continental shelf was defined as 200-nautical miles off shore. States, countries, and territories were given full control over all resources, living and nonliving.
It is with these agreements and the EEZ, that there continues to be disagreements. These agreements gave states, countries, and territories political weight for the first time. So, the land area is 550,356 square km, but the EEZ increases this amount to 31, 224, 000 square km. It is also within these agreements that states, countries, and territories continue to use to prove their own claims to the areas.
Cite for September Posts: Stanley, D., South Pacific Handbook.