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20th. CENTURY CE DEVELOPMENTS

During World War 1 (1914-1918 CE) the use of submarines and aircraft demonstrated the inadequacy of international law with respect to freedom of the seas. Virtually all laws and treaties relating to the subject were disregarded as Great Britain strove to blockade the European continent and the German Empire attempted to isolate the British from the rest of the world. Interference by the German Empire in American trade with Great Britain was one of the causes of the entry of the United States into the war in 1917 CE.

Again during World War 2 (1936-1945 CE) the rights of neutrals were largely disregarded by the belligerent powers. This was because of the desperate urgency of both sides to utilize every means of achieving victory and because of the global character of the war.

The Charter of the United Nations (1945 CE) included a provision, Article 42, empowering the Security Council to institute partial or total interruptions of sea communications . These included blockades when necessary to maintain or restore international peace or security as per Article 42. The United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was convened in Geneva Switzerland in 1958 CE. It defined the rights of navigation and fishing on the High Seas in time of peace. It further approved Articles defining the continental shelf and innocent passage of foreign ships through territorial waters and straits. Innocent passage was defined as maritime transit that "is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state". Despite protracted discussion over the question of 3 nautical mile, 6 nautical mile or 12 nautical mile territorial waters, differences remained unresolved. After a second Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1960 CE the issue still remained unresolved.

The continuing disagreement over the width of territorial waters posed new threats to the freedom of the seas. In 1952 CE, Ecuador, Peru and Chile extended their claims to 200 nautical miles (370.4 Km) and seized foreign ships engaged in fishing without their permission. Several other nations also began to extend their offshore zones well beyond 12 nautical miles to exercise control over their fish stocks, commercial catches and natural resources. The increasing number and intensity of international disputes, such as the British -Iceland cod wars, resulting from such unilateral actions showed the need for a Conference. There were other problems such as the discovery of minerals in the deeper seabed and the rights to exploit them. The United Nations convened the third Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1973 CE. In 1977 CE, with the Conference still in session, the United States extended its fishing zone to 200 nautical miles, limited fishing within that area to nations that gave reciprocal rights to United States fleets. Following this action many nations established similar 200 nautical mile zones reaching fishing agreements with other countries by direct negotiation. Ordinary navigation was not restricted in these fishing zones.

A Treaty adopted at the 1982 CE session of the Law of the Sea Conference approved 12 nautical miles as the territorial limit for coastal states and 200 nautical miles as the "Exclusive Economic Zone". Thus a country's EEZ includes control over fishing rights, marine environmental protection and scientific research within their Zone. The 1982 Convention, not fully in force, covers the full range of ocean law subjects including rights on the High Seas, rules governing seabed minerals, and development beyond national jurisdiction. Along with other nations the United States has not signed this Treaty because of objections to the rules on mineral development in the international seabed.

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