1984

ICJ

Gulf of Maine Canada v US

The court was asked to determine a ‘single maritime boundary’ between the continental shelves and exclusive fishing zones in the gulf of Maine. Four conventions (1. territorial sea and contiguous zone 2. high seas 3. continental shelf 4. fishing and conservation) resulted from the first and second Geneva Conferences of LS 1958, 1960. In 1982 there was a 3rd conference Both parties regard themselves as bound by the 1958 Convention on Continental Shelf, and both have acceded to it. [Different case to Continental Shelf France/UK] However the purpose of the proceedings was not just to delimitate the continental shelf alone, but also the superadjacent fishery zone. ‘it is doubtful whether a treaty obligation (art 6) [equidistant principle] which is in terms confined to continental shelf can be extended to a field fundamentally different’ 1965 Canada issued exploration oil permits which give rise to exchange of correspondence between Hoffman, Assistant director for Land and Minerals of the US and some other Canadian officer. Canada relying in such correspondence alleged that it constituted acquiescence or estoppel by the US

(111)...customary international law ... in fact comprises a limited set of norms for ensuring the co – existence and vital co – operation of the members of the international community, together [ius cogens and regular customary international law?] with a set of rules whose presence in the opinion juris of States can be tested by induction based on the analysis of sufficiently extensive and convincing practice... (139) The terms of the Hoffman letter cannot be invoked against the US, the Hoffman reservation that he was not authorised to commit the US only applies to the location of the median line, but there is nothing to show that the method had been adopted at government level. This situation, being a matter of US internal administration, does not authorise Canada to rely on the contents of a letter from an official of the Bureau …which concerns a technical matter, as thought it were an official declaration of the US government on that country’s international maritime boundary ‘The chamber does not be believe that there is any argument to justify the attempt to turn the provision of art 6 of the 1958 convention into a general rule applicable as such to every maritime delimitation. The treaty provision in question can have no mandatory force, even on continental shelf alone, similarly they do not have that force in a wider subject matter’ When drawing a single maritime boundary’ 1. the objective must be to achieve an equitable result 2. it is necessary to rule out any criterion exclusively bound with the particular characteristics of the ‘continental shelf or water column above it or which leads to preferential treatment for either of them. The court decided to emphasize the geography of the coast with a view to achieve an equal distribution. The 3rd UNCLOS has not yet come into force and a number of states do not appear inclined to ratify it. However this no detracts from the consensus reached on large portions of the instrument, and certain provisions on continental shelf and exclusive economic zone were adopted without objections. This provisions can be regarded as consonant with GIL