The coastal zone, broadly defined as near-coast waters
and the adjacent land area, forms a dynamic interface of land and water
of high ecological diversity and critical economic importance.
From: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation:
A Canadian Perspective
The zone includes the beach, estuaries, the adjacent land draining directly
into the coastal waters, and the offshore waters, usually out to the
edge of the continental shelf. The physical characteristics are described
in Types of Coasts.
- Many people live in the coastal zone. Overall 38% of the
world's population lives within 100 km of the coast or estuaries, and
44% live within 150 km of the coast..
- The number of people living within 100 km
of the coast increased from roughly 2 billion in 1990 to 2.2 billion
in 1995—39 percent
of the world's population. From World Resource Institute, Earthtrends.
Thus, each year roughly 50 million more people move into the
coastal zone worldwide.
- The coastal zone is important because
it is a source of fish and minerals.
- The coastal zone is an important political entity.
coastal waters, and who controls what is done on and below the coastal
waters of any country? These are very old questions, and the nations
of the world have agreed to some extent on some answers.
- Each coastal nation can claim jurisdiction over all activity in
a narrow band of ocean close to shore, the territorial sea.
- Each coastal
nation can also control economic activity in a wider band of
water called the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Here we will briefly consider the international framework,
the laws of the United States, and the laws of the State of Texas.
The extent of each coastal country's territorial sea is
defined by the UN
Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 1958 (click
on the link near the top of the page to download a 200-KByte pdf file with
the text of the convention).The UN also has a very interesting web page
that puts the convention into an historical
context. The following articles
are taken directly from the Convention (note State refers to a country).
- The sovereignty of a State extends, beyond its land
territory and its internal waters, to a belt of sea adjacent to its
coast, described as the territorial sea.
- The sovereignty of a coastal State extends to the air space over
the territorial sea as well as to its bed and subsoil.
- Except where otherwise provided in these articles, the normal baseline
for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low-water line
along the coast as marked on large-scale charts officially recognized
by the coastal State.
- In localities where the coast line is deeply indented and cut into,
or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate
vicinity, the method of straight baselines joining appropriate points
may be employed in drawing the baseline from which the breadth of the
territorial sea is measured.
- Subject to the provisions of these articles, ships of all States,
whether coastal or not, shall enjoy the right of innocent passage through
the territorial sea.
- The coastal State must not hamper innocent passage through the territorial
- In a zone of the high seas contiguous to its territorial sea, the
coastal State may exercise the control necessary to:
- Prevent infringement
of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary regulations within
its territory or territorial sea;
- Punish infringement of the above
regulations committed within its territory or territorial sea.
contiguous zone may not extend beyond twelve miles from
the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
US Presidential Proclamation 5928 Claiming A
12 Nautical Mile Territorial Sea For The U.S.
On December 27,1988, U.S. President
Ronald Reagan signed proclamation 5928, which claimed a 12 [nautical]
mile territorial sea for the U.S. As established by the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the territorial sea is
a belt of ocean which is measured seaward from the baseline of the
coastal nation and subject to its sovereignty. This sovereignty also
extends to the airspace above and to the seabed and subsoil. It is
exercised subject to UNCLOS and other rules of international law
relating to innocent passage, transit passage, archipelagic sea lanes
passage and protection of the marine environment.
From NOAA Coastal Services Center.
Exclusive Economic Zone
The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond
and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal
regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction
of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States
are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention ... In
the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has ... sovereign
rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and
managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of
the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil,
and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation
and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from
the water, currents and winds ... The exclusive economic zone shall
not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which
the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Convention on Law of the Sea
Boundaries of all Exclusive Economic Zones
of the world. Other maps are at the Sea
Around Us Project, which allows you to see the zone for
and from VLIZ
Maritime Boundaries Geobase.
Project of the University of Texas
US Presidential Proclamation 5030 Creating The Exclusive
On March 10, 1983, U.S. President Ronald
Reagan signed proclamation 5030, which established the U.S. Excusive
Economic Zone (EEZ). This consists of those areas adjoining the territorial
sea of the U.S., the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the commonwealth
of the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. overseas territories and
possessions. The EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from
the U.S. coastline. About 15 percent of this area lies on the geologic
continental shelf and is shallower than 200 meters. Within its EEZ,
the U.S. has sovereign rights over all living and non-living resources.
Other nations may exercise freedom of vessel navigation and over
flight within the U.S. EEZ (Source: Year of the Ocean Discussion
Papers 1998; 2nd Ed. of Coastal and Ocean Law by Kalo et al. 1994)
From NOAA Coastal Services Center
By the stroke of a pen and in an act that cost the United States nothing,
America had in essence more than doubled in size. Debate continues
over the exact size of the U.S. EEZ, but it is probably around 4 million
square miles ... the territory around Hawaii alone is about 1 million
square miles, or an area larger than Mexico. Historically, this action
is comparable to the Louisiana Purchase of 1802. Yet because the seas
draw so little attention, this proclamation was hardly reported in
From Wilder, R. J. (1998). Listening to the Sea: The Politics of Improving
Environmental Protection. Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press.
The largest Exclusive Economic Zone of the USA is in the Pacific. Most
of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands is also a marine protected area.
From NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Western
Pacific Fisheries Information Network.
Coastal Zone Management in the US and Texas
The Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 provided incentives for
coastal states to develop resource-management programs to regulate
The term "coastal zone" means the
coastal waters (including the lands therein and thereunder) and the
adjacent shorelands (including the waters therein and thereunder),
strongly influenced by each other and in proximity to the shorelines
of the several coastal states, and includes islands, transitional
and intertidal areas, salt marshes, wetlands, and beaches ... The
zone extends inland from the shorelines only to the extent necessary
to control shorelands, the uses of which have a direct and significant
impact on the coastal waters, and to control those geographical areas
which are likely to be affected by or vulnerable to sea level rise.
The term "coastal waters" means
... those waters, adjacent to the shorelines, which contain a measurable
quantity or percentage of sea water, including, but not limited to,
sounds, bays, lagoons, bayous, ponds, and estuaries.
From Coastal Zone
Management Act of 1972
Protection, Research, and sanctuaries Act of 1972 regulated
of wastes into ocean waters, and it authorized the Secretary
of Commerce to designate national
marine sanctuaries for the "purpose
of preserving or restoring areas for their conservation, recreational,
ecological, or esthetic values." Originally, the sanctuaries had
multiple uses, including fishing and resource use. Lately, NOAA has started
to create zones within the sanctuaries where marine life is fully protected,
although fishing is still allowed in most areas.
A. Seaward Boundaries
Section 304(1) of the Coastal Zone Management Act defines
the seaward extent of a state's coastal zone as "to the outer limit of state
title and ownership under the Submerged Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1301 et.
seq.)...." Under the Submerged
Lands Act, Florida's title and ownership extends three miles
into the Atlantic Ocean and, in accordance with United States vs. Louisiana,
et. al., 364 U.S. 502 (1960), three marine leagues (approximately nine
miles) into the Gulf of Mexico. Texas' title and ownership extends
nine nautical miles. NOAA
but in no event shall the term "boundaries" or the term "lands
beneath navigable waters" be
interpreted as extending from the coast line more than three geographical miles
into the Atlantic Ocean or
the Pacific Ocean, or more than three marine leagues into the Gulf of Mexico,
except that any boundary
between a State and the United States under this Act [43 USC § § 1301-1315]
which has been or is
hereafter fixed by coordinates under a final decree of the United States Supreme
Court shall remain
immobilized at the coordinates provided under such decree and shall not be ambulatory;
From Section 1301—Definitions Submerged Lands Act.
B. Tidal Datums
The seaward extent of the various political divisions is from a line
on the beach determined by the height of the tides, called the tidal
datum. Mean Higher High Water (MHHW), Mean High Water (MHW), Mean Low
Water (MLW), and Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) are examples of tidal
datums (i.e., vertical datums defined by a phase of the tide). In the
U.S., the MLLW is the baseline from which more seaward boundaries are
High and low tides used to define tidal datums.
A tidal day is the time interval between two successive passes of moon
past a place on earth, approximately 24.84 solar hours (24 hours
and 50 minutes). It is also called a lunar day.
From NOAA Special Publication NOS CO-OPS 1: TIDAL
DATUMS AND THEIR APPLICATIONS (2000).
High Water: Maximum height
reached by a rising tide.
Mean High Water: The average of all the
high-water heights observed over the National Tidal Datum Epoch.
Higher High Water: The highest of the
high waters (or single high water) of any specified tidal day.
Mean Higher High Water: The average of
the higher high water height of each tidal day observed over the National
Tidal Datum Epoch.
Low Water: The minimum height reached
by a falling tide.
Mean Low Water: The average of all the
low water heights observed over the National Tidal Datum Epoch.
Lower Low Water: The lowest of the low
waters (or single low water) of any specified tidal day.
Mean Lower Low Water: The average of
the lower low water height of each tidal day observed over the National
Tidal Datum Epoch.
National Tidal Data Epoch: The specific
l9-year period adopted by the National Ocean Service as the official
time segment over
which tide observations are taken and reduced to obtain mean values for
tidal datums. The present epoch is is 1983 through 2001.
Because sea level is changing, rising along most coasts, dropping along
Alaskan coasts, the tidal datum is recalculated every 20–25 years.
Simplified summary of US political boundaries within the coastal zone.
From: Federal Geographic
Data Committee's Marine Boundary Working Group, Shoreline
Boundaries Diagram (pdf file) linked from
bottom of page.
C. Texas' Boundary
By 1975 the Texas Coastal Management Program had defined the Texas
coastal zone as "southwest along the coast from the Sabine
to the Rio Grande, seaward into the Gulf of Mexico for a distance
of 10.35 miles (9 nautical miles, which was originally 3 leagues
under Spanish law), and inland to include 36 counties." (Handbook
of Texas) This
zone is composed of eight geographic areas extending from the inner
continental shelf to about forty miles inland. It includes all
estuaries and tidally influenced streams and bounding wetlands.
Texas regulates fishing out to 9 nautical miles, and the federal government,
through the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council regulates fishing
from 9 to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
Texas Coastal Management Zone
as defined by the Texas legislature.
From Texas Coastal Coordination Council
The total coastal zone of Texas comprises an area of more than 33,000
square miles. The coastal counties have one-third of the state's population,
one-third of its economic activity, 40 percent of the national petrochemical
industry, 25 percent of the national petroleum-refining capacity,
and three of the ten largest seaports; yet they make up only about
one-tenth of the total land area of the state. The zone is richly endowed
with natural resources. Its mineral production, largely of oil and
gas, has a value of nearly $1 billion a year. Another $156 million
comes from commercial fisheries. The fertile soils along the coast
produce agricultural products valued at $500 million a year. The beaches
and waters attract about three million tourists who spend nearly $1.6
billion per year.
8 April, 2009