On land, countries are separated by borders that indicate which country governs a particular piece of land, its inhabitants and its natural resources. But what happens when these borders reach the coast? How are the many natural resources available at the seafloor divided between the different coastal countries and who governs the ships that travel across the seas?
To provide an answer to these questions, in 1982 the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea defined a set of rules on how to divide the marine regions. A country has control over both the seafloor as well as ships travelling at the sea surface in an area that extends up to 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) from its coastline. This is called a country’s territorial sea and its outline is similar to the borders that exist on land.
Extending beyond this point and reaching up to 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) from a country’s coast lies its Exclusive Economic Zone. Within this region, a country owns the natural resources at the seafloor but has no say on what happens at the surface. Any ships in an Exclusive Economic Zone are essentially in international waters. This map of the week features the Exclusive Economic Zones of EU Countries for which a regulatory text exists in UN’s Convention on the Law of the Sea1. Note that such a text does not exist for the EEZ of some EU countries (e.g. UK, Italy, and Greece) and these are currently not shown on the map.
The data in this map were provided by EMODnet Human Activities.