The Great Tuna Boat Chase and Massacre Case has Ecuador claiming that the United States is in violation of its 200-mile territorial sea. From it’s inception, Ecuador had accepted the customary three mile limit as the demarcation of its territorial waters. However, after 130 years, Juan Valdez achieved power in 1952. Under his regime, he proclaimed that the three mile boundary was never meant to be considered a fixed and unalterable boundary, and that historical practices as well as the natural features of the area justified a 200-mile territorial sea. Each Ecuadorian president since Valdez claimed this as well.
Under the UN 1982 treaty, a state’s territorial sea extends twelve nautical miles from the national coastline (Slomanson 305). Within this area, Ecuador exercises its sovereignty over these waters as if it were a landmass (Slomanson 305). All aspects of the sea are under its control, including the seabed and airspace. Furthermore, Ecuador is allowed to impose laws that regulate the territory and consume resources that lie inside this defined area. Within this territorial sea, Ecuador “must exercise its sovereign power in this adjacent strip of water” (Slomanson 305). Additionally, Ecuador is expected to chart this water and to provide warning of navigational hazards (Slomanson 305). However, Ecuador did not act upon this and was “lax in enforcing it”. In 1951, the International Court of Justice issued this statement in response to a ruling:
“To every State whose land territory is at any place washed by the sea, international law attaches a corresponding portion of maritime territory consisting of what the law calls territorial waters... No maritime States can refuse them. International law imposes upon a maritime State certain obligations and confers upon it certain rights arising out of the sovereignty which it exercises over its maritime territory. The possession of this territory is not optional, not dependent upon the will of the State, but compulsory” (Slomanson 306).
In saying this, the ICJ ruled that a State must accept these waters as part of its jurisdiction and enforce it. As the UN 1982 Treaty states, 12 miles is the furthest distance territorial waters may extend to. Ecuador can not claim a 200-mile territorial sea. They must accept the 12 mile zone granted to them. Ecuador can not construe the rules to their liking.
Ecuador’s actions are not exclusive and have been seen before on the international level. In the past, certain costal states have staked a claim much wider than the customary limit (Slomanson 308). The majority of these cases were put forth by “lesser-developed nations with significant fishing or seabed resources adjacent to their coasts-while lacking the superior technology possessed by developed nations to take advantages of these resources” (Slomanson 308). Ecuador has used as justification the claim that fishing resources act as the primary source of exports and national...