Proposal (76) to South American Classification Committee


Change offshore limits to 200 nautical miles


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would extend the offshore limits of our area of study to the internationally recognized EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), which is 200 nautical miles. Our current limit is 100 miles (160km).


Background: Currently we recognize an offshore limit of 100 statute miles (160km) in the definition of our region. I gather that this matches up to what the AOU uses to define their offshore boundaries. I have not been able to find if 100 miles is what the AOU uses, at least not in print, but I do recall that this is the case. Please correct me if I am wrong.


I want to make the case that it would be an improvement for us to adopt the internationally recognized EEZ or Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles, which apparently all South American nations recognize. The EEZ is a concept that was adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1982), whereby a coastal state assumes jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in its adjacent section of the continental shelf, taken to be a band extending 200 miles from the shore. Since this 200nm limit is where the states that comprise South America have jurisdiction over marine resources, and this includes all wildlife, in other words birds, it makes sense to use it as the limit of our region. If we adopt the 200nm limit we will have a checklist that includes all pelagic bird species for which South American nations have some internationally recognized jurisdiction. The boundary of 100miles does not conform to any widely recognized ecological or political boundary. Below is a list of offshore jurisdictional boundaries that are usually recognized:


contiguous zone: 24 NM territorial sea: 12 NM continental shelf: 200 NM or to edge of the continental margin exclusive economic zone:200 NM


This link gives some background on the law of the sea:


This link gives background on maritime claims by nation in South America.


I will also note that bird records committees have been using the 200nm limit starting in the 80s, examples include California Bird Records Committee, British Bird Rarities Committee, American Birding Association Checklist Committee etc. So, this limit is being used by bird related organizations that are in charge of determining avifaunal lists.


How to Apply? This jurisdiction is 200 nautical miles from the nearest point of land, including islands. For most of South America this is easy enough to determine, and more importantly good oceanic charts usually show the EEZ of each nation, so limits can be researched and coordinates of single records can be compared to these charts. Where it will be problematic is in the Caribbean, where the maritime boundary of our zone will come into contact with the zone of the AOU committee. In these situations, the way in which it is resolved is to draw the boundary exactly half way between the two points of land in the different jurisdictions. So, on a map one could draw a line that showed where the midpoint between Grenada (AOU) and Tobago (SACC) would be for example. It is incredibly unlikely that we would ever have to get to this level of detail in determining if a certain record was in SACC water or AOU water, but at least there is a mechanism to resolve this issue.


Analysis: Currently the maritime limit of our region does not conform to any standard. The EEZ is an internationally recognized concept, which is often depicted on charts. This not only makes our offshore boundary conform to the offshore boundaries of nations within South America, but also potentially makes for an easier to use limit as the EEZ boundary coordinates can be looked up. In addition, the 200 nautical mile limit will clearly include all species that are truly deep-water pelagic specialists. I am not sure if this enlargement of our oceanic area will add any species, but it may clarify some which I have wondered about in terms of whether they were in or out of the 100 miles. The fact that the AOU does not use the EEZ as its limit should not detract us; in fact, I would argue that it would make sense for them to conform to this concept as well. The AOU checklist committee predates the EEZ, but we do not.


Recommendation: Yes, apply a 200 nautical mile offshore limit to for our region.


Alvaro Jaramillo, November 2003




Comments from Don Roberson: "Van and the SACC, I recommend using the 200 nautical mile limit for offshore boundaries for bird checklists, except, of course, when another jurisdiction is less than 400 nautical miles distant, in which point the geographic mid-point is the line unless modified by treaty. I have a lengthy discussion on the Calif. Bird Records Committee web site at (following the list of county abbreviations) but it is specific to the California situation and much less useful for a broad discussion. I distill a small portion below:


For general purposes, it is enough to realize that there in the United States there are four distinct zones to which jurisdiction (in a formal legal sense) applies. The FIRST ZONE is for formal county jurisdiction (e.g., the county sheriff can arrest you) and is limited to three miles offshore. In California, these lines are listed in excruciating detail in the California Government Code. The SECOND ZONE is official state jurisdiction (e.g., Calif. Fish & Game officers can arrest you). It is also limited to three miles offshore except across a "closed bay in which case the state can have much more extensive jurisdiction. For example, the Supreme Court found in "U.S. v. California, (1965) 381 US 139, 14 L.Ed.2d 296, that Monterey Bay was a "closed bay and thus the State of California had jurisdiction well beyond the usual 3-mile limit (goes to about 12 miles offshore at mid-Bay). The THIRD ZONE is a zone of official United States sovereignty (the FBI can arrest you). Under international law this is now 12 nautical miles from the nearest point of land (including islands; sometimes farther when "closed bay lines are involved). The FOURTH ZONE is the zone of internationally recognized jurisdiction [the "Exclusive Economic Zone" or EEZ] over seabed and fisheries resources. Although any nation’s ship can transit the waters under the doctrine of "freedom of the seas, the nation with the jurisdiction may regulate fishing, seabed mining, oil drilling, etc. This jurisdiction is 200 nautical miles from the nearest point of land, including islands.


All these offshore lines run from the "nearest point of land" (including islands) but treaties between nations can change an offshore boundary to a different spot than "nearest point of land. Further, there have been cases when equitable analysis has moved an offshore line under rules of international law (e.g., North Sea Continental Shelf cases before The Hague International Court or the Anglo-French arbitration of 1977). These cases are rare but have been applied to determine the division of monies for exploitation of seabed resources off the Atlantic states (see Charney, 1981, "The delimitation of lateral seaward boundaries between states in a domestic context, Am. Journal Intern. Law 75: 28-68, a very useful paper to which Paul Buckley recently drew my attention). There may be additional limits (e.g., 24 n.miles) in other specific situations, but I don't think any of them apply to the United States.


I do not know if any South American countries have "county" or "state" jurisdictional zones, but I am aware that their definitions of national sovereignty and the EEZ are the same as the U.S.; I believe that these definitions were internationally recognized under a treaty governing the Law of the Sea. Indeed, Peru and Ecuador (I think those were the lead counties) were in the forefront of developing the law and logic that led to the eventual acceptance of the EEZ in international law.


None of the above is very important for SACC consideration; it is enough to recognize that there is no formal jurisdictional limit based on statute miles (as opposed to nautical miles) and that none of the recognized jurisdictional zones has a 100 mile boundary. The "100 mile limit" is an anachronism dating from a time when no EEZ was recognized [indeed, the U.S. was initially against the EEZ proposed by Peru et al. way back in the '50s-'60s]. Now that a formal EEZ is recognized worldwide, it makes sense to apply it uniformly to all major bird checklists that include a portion of the ocean beyond the terrestrial land.






Comments from Schulenberg: "[YES] My vote would be in favor of the 200 nm limit. I don't know a lot about nautical law, and I don't really want to learn much about it either. But for better or for worse the 200 nm limit is what I've accepted as the filter for processing records of pelagic species off the coast of Peru. I suspect that workers in most if not all other South American countries would take a similar approach. So, it makes sense to me to standardize this across the board, as Alvaro suggests."


Comments from Stiles: "YES - seems logical to incorporate accepted international standards here. For curiosity, anyone know how many species this might add to the list??"