Countries with the Largest Exclusive Economic Zones

Fishing boats within the EEZ of New Zealand. Editorial credit: ChameleonsEye /
Fishing boats within the EEZ of New Zealand. Editorial credit: ChameleonsEye /

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a region in which a has special rights in terms of marine resource exploration and use. These regions are adjacent and beyond a country’s territorial waters and do not extend beyond 200 nautical miles (nmi) from a nation’s coast. These exclusive economic zones also include the continental shelf within the 200 nmi limit. The only exception to this rule is when the coastal baseline of two nations is less than 400 nmi apart. When they overlap, the two countries must delineate an exact maritime boundary. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) prescribes which country has rights over resource usage (wind and water) and exploration within a given sea zone. All nations, whether landlocked or coastal, have a right to overflight and navigation and even laying pipelines or submarine cables within any sea zone.

Nations with the Largest Exclusive Economic Zones


Due to its numerous overseas departments and territories scattered all over the oceans, France has the largest exclusive economic zone in the world. French overseas territories and departments have an EEZ of 3,791,998 sq mi, which accounts for 96.7% of France’s EEZ. The total area of the French Republic’s EEZ is 4,514,000 sq mi, which is about 8% of the world’s exclusive economic zones, while the country's land area represents only 0.45% of the world’s land area. France also claims part of the Canadian EEZ for their Saint Pierre and Miquelon territory, as per the definition of the EEZ and the continental shelf. Canada’s EEZ surrounds Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

United States

The United States has the world's second largest EEZ, which includes area in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and three oceans. The United States EEZ occupies an area of about 4,383,000sq mi which is about 7.77% of the world’s total EEZ area. The United States has a land area of about 3,800,000 sq mi, which makes it the third largest nation in the world. Alaska (1,455,613 sq mi) makes up the United Statds' largest EEZ, followed by Hawaii (609,863 sq mi). There is a dispute between Canada and the United States over a wedge-shaped part of Beaufort Sea because of the area has substantial oil reserves.


Australia declared their EEZ on August 1, 1994, and it extends up to 200 nmi from the Australian coastline and all of their external territories, minus areas where they have a maritime delimitation agreement with another country. Australia has the third largest EEZ, which occupies an area of about 3,283,933 sq mi. Australia claimed an additional 965,255 sq mi of seabed directly beyond their EEZ, which was confirmed by the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on April 2008. They also submitted a claim over an additional area beyond their Australian Antarctic Territory, which the commission disapproved even though their EEZ in the Antarctic territory has an area of about 772,204 sq mi. Mainland Australia and Tasmania, among other minor islands, have the most significant sea zone which occupies an area of about 2,335,408 sq mi.

What Are Transboundary Stocks?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has guidelines that fisheries management must follow to avoid maritime boundary disputes. These guidelines have essential practical mechanisms for the control of exclusive economic zones and transboundary stocks. Fish stock can be both straddling and transboundary. Transboundary stocks are the stock of fish that are within the range of the exclusive economic zones of at least two nations. Straddling stocks range in both the high seas and an EEZ.

Countries with the Largest Exclusive Economic Zones

RankCountryExclusive Economic Zone Area ( km2)
2United States11,351,000
5United Kingdom6,805,586
9New Zealand4,083,744
16Papua New Guinea2,402,288
19Marshall Islands1,990,530

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