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It was not until the 1970s that a trend in favor of a twelve nautical mile (ânmâ) territorial sea emerged. Notwithstanding this tendency, Somalia claimed an extension of its territorial sea from twelve to 200 nm in 1972 and advocated a corresponding rule during the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. At that time, extensive territorial sea claims were quite common among African and Latin American coastal states. However, Article 3 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (âUNCLOSâ), as adopted, limits coastal states to claim a maximum territorial sea of twelve nm.
Consequently, the delineation might not have withstood legal challenge at the time it was made.
The Somalian parliament opposes such a move, seeing it as giving up sovereignty. Even though an unequivocal declaration of a Somalian EEZ would end the legal uncertainty, the question arises whether the current situation hinders Somalia from exercising its rights associated with the EEZ and the EU naval forces from fulfilling their Operation ATALANTA mandate to monitor fishing activities, or whether it is merely used as an excuse.
Unlike fishing activities, anti-piracy efforts off Somalia would not be affected by the establishment of an EEZ.
However, Somalia has a legal obligation to harmonize its national legislation with the UNCLOS regime.
Third, Somaliaâs 1972 declaration is to be interpreted in light of Somaliaâs obligations under UNCLOS.