Over How Much of the World’s Oceans Does the US Have Jurisdiction?

The United States of America has jurisdiction over 4,382,646 square miles (11.4 million square kilometers) of ocean, which totals more than any other country. The first three miles off a nation’s coast are considered state waters. The next nine miles are sovereign territory, although both military and civilian vessels of other nations are allowed to pass through. Beyond that, extending 200 nautical miles from the coast, is the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The EEZ is where a country has control over resources and affairs in the ocean, including fishing and natural resource extraction.

More about jurisdiction over ocean:

  • The US has jurisdiction over more ocean (4.4 million square miles or 11.4 million square kilometers) than land (3.8 million square miles or 9.8 million square kilometers).

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty establishing the international governance over the world’s water is one of the longest treaties ever written.

  • In the 18th century, nations determined water jurisdiction based on how far off the coast a cannon could be fired, which in those times was three nautical miles.

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