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Rights and responsibilities of coastal states

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Rights and responsibilities of coastal states

The world’s EEZs cover one third of the total ocean surface. Almost ninety five per cent of the world’s commercial marine fishing, all of the world’s offshore oil, and gas production, and most marine research occur in these EEZs. Over 60 coastal nations have proclaimed 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones off of their shores (Slade,1988, p.1006).  Within these zones, coastal nations have sweeping powers, including “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or nonliving, of the seabed and the subsoil, and the superjacent waters, with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds,”l as well as jurisdiction with regard to artificial islands, marine research and environmental protection.

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The UNCLOSIII conference had proved to be more complicated, difficult, and comprehensive. It began with more than 400 draft articles and the conference delegates spent nearly ten years whittling these articles down to about 320 articles and 9 annexes, forming a manageable convention that defines ocean boundaries and the rights and responsibilities of the world community in using the oceans.

This convention, more than any of its predecessors, specifically addressed ocean pollution,  specifically addressed ocean pollution, making it each country’s duty to protect the ocean environment and conserve living resources. It mandated cooperation among

1.  http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/closindx.htm

neighbouring coastal states to control ocean pollution from all sources (Beatley, Brower, and Schwab, 1994, P.58).

The responsibilities of the coastal states lies in efficient resource use, reversing the degradation of renewable resources, and implementing strategies for sustainable use of land, water, biological and generic resources, and energy. Reducing waste generation, recycling wastes into productive activities, and finding safe ways to dispose of wastes that remain are essential elements in creating a healthy and habitable coastal environment (Beatley, Brower, and Schwab, 1994, P.10).

One of the fundamental tenets of the international law of the sea is that all the ships of all states enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea of other states. The Laws of Sea (LOS) convention provides definition of the meaning “innocent passage” in article 19 and lists those activities not innocent or prejudicial to the peace, good order, or security of the state. A ship which is not engaged in any of these listed activities is in ‘innocent passage’ (Smith and Roach, 1996,  p.227). For purpose such as resource conservation, environmental protection, and navigational safety, a coastal state may establish certain restrictions upon the right of innocent passage of foreign vessels. However, the state also must ensure that such restrictions are reasonable and necessary, and not have the practical effect of denying or impairing the right of innocent passage. The restrictions must not discriminate in form or in fact against the ship of any state, or those carrying cargoes, to, from or on behalf of any state. The convention also empowered the coastal states under article 21, to adopt, with due publicity, laws, and regulations relating to innocent passage through in respect to any or all of the eight subject areas which includes safety, protection, conservation, preservation, prevention, infringement  aspects of coastal regions (Smith and Roach, 1996, p.232).

In the preamble to the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea, Archipelago is defined as a group of islands, including parts of islands, interconnecting waters and other natural features, which are so closely interrelated that such islands, waters and other natural features form an intrinsic geographical, economic and political entity.  If a part of the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic State lies between two parts of an immediately adjacent neighbouring State, existing rights and all other legitimate interests which the latter State has traditionally exercised in such waters and all rights stipulated by agreement between those States shall continue and be respected (Part IV, article 47). The sovereignty of an archipelagic state extends to the waters enclosed by the archipelagic baselines drawn in accordance with article 47, described as archipelagic water. An archipelagic State is bound to respect existing agreements with other States and to recognize traditional fishing rights and other legitimate activities of the immediately adjacent neighbouring States in certain areas falling within archipelagic waters (article 49).2

LOS article 42 which is applicable to laws and regulations of states bordering straits relating to transit passage stated that states bordering straits can adopt law related to the safety of the navigation and regulation of the maritime traffic, prevention, reduction and control of pollution, prevention of fishing, and loading and

unloading of commodities in contravention of the customs, laws and regulations of

 2. http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part4.htm

states bordering straits.3

The coastal states may choose from a wide range of measures which directly or indirectly protect their territorial sea or coastline from vessel source pollution. They may include establishment of discharge standards and ‘construction, design, equipment, and manning (CDEM) standards, designation of sea lanes, traffic separation schemes, and other ship’s routing measures, Ship Reporting Systems (SRSs) and Vessel Traffic Services, (VTSs) as well as the exercise of the practices of prior notification or authorization of passage (Hakappa, Molenaar, 1999, p.139).

         The appalling state of fisheries which is one of the crucial reasons for the failure of the US ocean policy needs to be revived. For too long, marine fisheries have been managed in a one dimensional way without regard to issues of habitat loss, pollution and other factors. The coastal states must give high priority to restoring public confidence in their capacity to achieve sensible policy goals. Putting the marine fisheries in a sustainable footing would be a good step forward.

         The coastal states do not have a great deal of leverage for becoming ‘full partner’ with the federal government for US EEZ resource management under the current legal status quo. Narrow channels exist for states to exercise regulatory control. As no additional authority or control was given to the coastal states to manage their ocean resources, the states can become full partner in the planning and conduct of any EEZ resource development is through amending the existing framework of ocean resource legislation.

3. http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part3.htm

This amendment calls for establishing a reviewing panel, such as a National Ocean Policy Commission (Slade, 1988, p.1101).


Beatley, T, Brower, D.J. and Schwab, A.K (1994) An introduction to coastal zone management, Island Press, p.210

Hakappa, K, Molenaar, E.J (1999) Innocent Passage: Past and Present, Marine Policy, Vol.23, No.2, pp.131-145

Slade, D.C (1988) Coastal states and marine resource development within the United States exclusive economic zone, general Counsel, Coastal States Organisation, retrieved from the url: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel5/738/906/00794938.pdf on 30th Nov, 06

Roach, J. A. and Smith, R.W (1996) United States response to excessive maritime claims, Martinus Nijhoff’s Publishers, p.696

Cite this Rights and responsibilities of coastal states

Rights and responsibilities of coastal states. (2016, Sep 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/rights-and-responsibilities-of-coastal-states/

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