Concept of Exclusive Economic Zone and contribution of International Court of Justice


EEZ is an area around a country boundary which is adjacent to the territorial sea where only that country has rights to extract something valuable. There are total 150 EEZ surrounding the world’s continents which means they make 42% of Worlds Ocean.

Meaning of EEZ

  • The EEZ is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea extending up to 200 nautical miles seaward from the coast baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
  • The concept of Exclusive Economic zone was initiated by Kenya in 1972 at Geneva session of U.N. committee on Peaceful uses of sea bed and ocean floor beyond the limits of National Jurisdiction.
  • Later this concept was adopted by United Nations 1982 Convection based on the law of the sea.
  • United Nations Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS) states different provisions related EEZ which gives the concept of EEZ binding International Recognition.
  • In Tunisia v. Libya, it was said that the concept of EEZ has received acceptance in the practices of states and thus it can be regarded as customary laws.

Some of the important provisions of UNCLOS are as follows:

Article 56 Rights, duties of coastal states in EEZ – It states that in EEZ country enjoys sovereign power as to:

  • Extraction of oil, fish and use of marine resources, energy production using water, wind & current etc.
  • Use of island, establishment of marine scientific research Centre, framing guidelines to protect the marine resources, control of water pollution and other rights and duties as specified.

Article 57 Breadth of EEZ – The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

Article 59 Resolution for conflict – In case any conflict arises between parties with regard to jurisdiction of states in exclusive economic zone then conflict should be resolves on the basis of equity after taking into account the interest of the parties.

Article 61 & 62 Conservation and optimal utilization of Living resources – The coastal states shall ensure that proper conservation and management measure are taken to protect the living resources of EEZ. “The coastal State shall promote the objective of optimum utilization of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone”.

India Position of EEZ

Section 7(1) of The territorial waters, Continental shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Maritime zones act 1976  provides that EEZ of India is an area beyond and adjacent to its territorial waters and he limit of such zone is 200 nautical miles from the baseline from where territorial water is measured.

It also states that this limit may be altered by notification in official gazette.

The rights under Section 7(4) can be exercised peacefully and without the interruption of the neighboring states. Sea borders of India with most of the states are delineated except Bangladesh and Pakistan. In the absence of delineated maritime boundary line between India and Pakistan a dispute arose in1987 also known as “Sir Creek Dispute”.

Sir Creek Dispute between India and Pakistan

  • Sir Creek is a water dispute between India and Pakistan in Rann of Kutch which is 60 miles long. Creek divides the kutch of Gujarat from the Sindh province of Pakistan. The dispute was of the division of maritime boundary line between the two nations. India argues that division should be made with the help of “Thalweg Doctrine” but Pakistan rejects this law.
  • This doctrine states that a river can be divided from its mid channel if both the nations are agreed upon this division.
  • Minister Harold Wilson said that this “area is very important for its economic resources of oil and gas line beneath the surface and it is one the exclusive economic zone”.
  • This issue has been hanging ever since and has not been decided.

Contribution of International Court of Justice

CASE: U.K v. ICELAND (1974)

The facts of the case are as follows:

  • This case is also known as Fisheries Jurisdiction case or Cold Wars between U.K and Iceland.
  • In May 1952 Iceland increased its exclusive fishing grounds from three to four nautical miles which means that no one else is allowed to fish within that zone only Iceland can.
  • Britain was not happy with the infringement of their fishing rights because the large sector of their economy was dependent on such fishing and so Britain decided to banned Iceland from exporting fish to Britain
  • Now if the ban continued the economy of Iceland would be devastated as Britain was the biggest exporter of fish from Iceland.
  • In 1972 U.K and Germany instituted proceedings against Iceland for extension of the limits of exclusive zone from 12 nautical miles to 50 nautical miles.

Issues in the case:

  • Whether the Extension of Fishing Zone by Iceland from 12 Nautical miles to 50 nautical miles is legal?
  • Can Iceland unilaterally exclude Britain from their Fishing Rights in exclusive zone?

It was held by ICJ that:

  • Iceland is not unilaterally entitled to exclude U.K from the exclusive zone between the area of 12 and 50 miles limit.
  • Iceland cannot impose restrictions on such activities of Britain.
  • Court held that as “the coastal State Iceland had preferential rights, but that it had to recognize the historic rights of the UK”.
  • It is the mutual obligation of the parties to negotiate on the matter with bona fide intention for finding justified solution of the issue.
  • Article 2 states that the right of fishing is to “be exercised by all States with reasonable regard to the interests of other States in their exercise of the freedom of the high seas”.


The UNCLOS and the contributions of International court of Justice gave the concept of Exclusive Economic Zone a binding international character. This concept was widely accepted and followed by various states. Thus it can be said that this concept has become a part of customary international law

Author: Pooja Rathore,
Delhi Metropolitian Education, IP university, 3 year BBA LLB

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