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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The trouble with islands Schofield, Clive Howard


This thesis focuses on one of the most problematic aspects of the international law of the sea – the question of how to deal with islands with respect to claims to maritime jurisdiction and the delimitation of maritime boundaries. Issues related to islands are at the root of numerous disputes around the world. These disputes fall into two broad categories: sovereignty disputes over islands and disputes concerning their capacity to generate maritime jurisdictional claims. Both types of dispute have implications for the delimitation of maritime boundaries between States. The research examines maritime jurisdictional issues, including an overview of the development and codification of the law of the sea, and provides analysis of the fundamental issues of baselines and the maritime jurisdictional claims that are measured from them. The critical importance of islands to the generation of claims to maritime zones on behalf of States is highlighted. In this context, the study explores why sovereignty over or the classification of, frequently small, remote, and often uninhabited islands is contested among States. The research reviews and critically analyses the regime of islands in international law. Types of insular features and their capacities to generate maritime claims are distinguished and potential sources of clarification for these distinctions are identified. The role and treatment of islands in the delimitation of maritime boundaries is analysed and emerging trends in both State practice and international jurisprudence on this issue are assessed with particular reference to key decisions of the International Court of Justice. The study also examines the potential impacts for islands and the maritime claims generated from insular features, arising as a consequence of sea-level rise. The research offers practical guidance as to policy options to address the complex legal and geotechnical problems identified.

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