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By David Wilson, Dick Sherwood

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Outer boundaries of 200 nautical miles (nm) for continental shelves are guaranteed for all coastal states except those which meet certain objective criteria for extending control beyond 200 miles to the outer edge of the continental margin up to a limit of 350 miles or the 2500-metre isobath, whichever is greater. The provisions on the protection and preservation of the marine environment establish a general obligation for coastal states and all states using the world ocean to protect and preserve the marine environment.

During the second century AD, it was the Roman jurist Marcianus who first advanced the proposition that the sea was common to all as part of the concept of the nature law; a position later codified in Roman law. 6 Attempts to extend state sovereignty onto the sea continued in the Mediterranean throughout the Middle Ages, along with the development of trade and commerce. This process also took place beyond the Mediterranean, with the countries of Scandinavia also attempting to impose control over adjacent waters, and the English laying claim to the English Channel and surrounding seas.

This trend was to continue through until the end of the nineteenth century, with the twin pillars of freedom of the seas and a narrow band of territorial waters (3 nautical miles) becoming well established in state practice,10 or at least in the practice of Western maritime states. This period of mercantilism saw the emergence also of the doctrine of common property, as applied to the living marine resources of the high seas where no single user had exclusive rights, or the right to prevent others from joining in their exploitation.

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