The Gulf of Mexico is situated in North America and is classified as one of the Atlantic Ocean’s marginal seas. The Gulf measures 0.615 million square miles in area and is believed to contain over 0.6 million cubic miles of water. Three countries have a coastline on the Gulf, and these are Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. Mexico has the longest coastline of the three countries bordering the Gulf of Mexico, with its coastline on the Gulf stretching 1,743 miles long.
The Western Gap
The Western Gap is a section of the Mexico-US maritime border on the Gulf of Mexico which is effectively considered as an “International Area.” The region which takes the shape of a triangle occupies an area of about 25,000 square miles the Gulf of Mexico. The boundary was established in the Exchange of Notes between the two countries in November 1976. As an international area, neither country has exclusive authority over the area. However, the two countries have in the past contested over the sovereignty of the region. Mexico pointed out the provisions of the UNCLOS III definition of the region. According to the international body, the region was an international area whose resources were for the “common heritage of humankind” and could only be exploited if aimed at benefiting the world’s population and not that of an individual country. However, the United States argued that according to the laws of the high seas, free exploitation of resources by any country was allowed. Based on this provision, the United States claimed that it had the authority to exploit the seabed for any fossil fuels.
Mexico has a coastline on the Gulf of Mexico which measures 1,743 miles in length, the longest of the countries which border the Gulf. Six states of the country lie on the coastline, and these are Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas. The country made a formal request to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf seeking permission to extend its continental shelf in the Gulf to reach 350 nautical miles. The request was in line with UNCLOS and necessary international laws. While the CLCS approved Mexico’s request in 2009, the extension of the continental shelf would only be effected after the US agreed to the request since the extension would see Mexico’s claim to the continental shelf intrude into US territory in the Gulf.
The United States
The United States’ coastline on the Gulf of Mexico stretches 1,680 miles in length. Among the states which are found along the coastline include Florida, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The United States maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico was established in the 1970s as a result of numerous treaties the United States signed with Mexico and Cuba, the two countries with which it shares the maritime boundary.
Immense oil deposits are found in the Gulf of Mexico. More than one-sixth of the US oil production is derived from the Gulf of Mexico. However, the presence of oil extraction activities has been detrimental on the biosphere of the Gulf as oil spills causing large-scale pollution on the Gulf.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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