What Is An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)?

Map of overlapping EEZ regions off the coast of East Asia, including the South China Sea. Where lies are crossed, disputes are sure to ensue!
Map of overlapping EEZ regions off the coast of East Asia, including the South China Sea. Where lies are crossed, disputes are sure to ensue!

Definition of An EEZ

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an area which is beyond, and is adjacent to, a given country's territorial seas, and extends no more than 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) out from a country's own coastlines. It can be seen that if the area for EEZ is overlapped and it is still less than 400 nautical miles, then it falls upon the respective states to delineate the actual boundaries of the coastlines. The area which is under the EEZ of a state gives them full rights to explore and exploit the marine resources in its adjacent continental shelf.

Country-By-Country Examples

There are many countries which have their own exclusive economic zones. Some examples for a few such countries are described below:

  • Australia: It stands third in the matter of area which comes under EEZ area, and is behind the countries of the United States of America and France and leads in this regard over Russia. Its area extends to 200 nautical miles from its coastline to the external maritime territories. It was also allotted an area of 2.5 million square kilometers in the Australian seabed.
  • Brazil: The areas included in the maritime boundary of the country are St. Paul, the Fernando de Noronha Islands, the St. Peter Archipelago out to Trinidad, and even the Martim Islands. In the year 2004, it submitted an exclusive request to increase its continental margins.
  • Canada: The area covered under the Canadian EEZ includes the marine waters of Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and the water areas of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
  • India: The country claims a total area of 2,305,143 square kilometers under its EEZ, but with this India is also planning to increase it by 350 square miles.
  • Mexico: The total area covered under the Mexican EEZ is 3,144,295 square kilometers, and thus is placed amongst the countries with the largest such areas in the world.
  • United Kingdom: The country has the fifth largest EEZ area of 6,805,586 square kilometers, and this also includes the zones of Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories.

Economic, Defensive, & Scientific Significance

The EEZs have also got economic importance as they do not only set the boundaries, but are also the source of livelihood for many countries because of their fisheries, natural gas reserves, and tourism. Even the shipping of goods also takes place through these zones from many other countries. The scientific importance of EEZs includes the carrying out of scientific research on varied marine creatures, and the sampling of the seabeds for oil and natural gas purposes which can also be carried out therein. Every country has been given the right to safeguard their territorial waters, but if some countries wish to explore the resources, then they have to enter into a bilateral agreement with the respective neighboring country.

Disputes & Governance

Many countries have also become disputed in regards to their marine waters, and the governance issues for many of these have been negotiated for several years. The main examples given in this regard can be seen in:

  • the "Cod Wars" between the UK and Iceland;
  • the South China Sea issues among and between China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam;
  • other East Asian maritime territorial disputes involving North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and others;
  • the Cyprus disputes over the EEZ between Cyprus and Turkey, which is further complicated by Lebanese claims of an overlapping of its EEZ by those of Cyprus and Israel.

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