Congressional Digest

International Debates Archives September 2012 No. 6 Vol. 10
Law of the Sea Convention

Law of the Sea Convention

National Jurisdiction Over Use of the World's Oceans

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For centuries, “freedom of the seas” prevailed in the maritime environment and limited rights and jurisdiction to a band of water extending three miles from a nation’s coast. That concept was known as the “cannon shot rule,” based on the reach of a cannon from the shore. All waters beyond that point were considered international territory ― free to all nations but belonging to none.

By the mid-twentieth century, some nations wanted to extend their boundaries to include mineral resources, protect fish stocks, and enforce pollution controls. In 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman claimed all the natura…

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