It’s a rock, isn’t it?

Ruegg, J.

It’s a rock, isn’t it? No, it’s an island. Strange, it looks like a rock


Ocean Legal Geographies I
The Global Meeting on Law and Society
ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon
Lisbon, Portugal

Actually, a rock is an island under article 121 UNCLOS (United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea). The purpose of this proposal is twofold:

1) To discuss why, in many cases, rocks are not rocks but islands in terms of access to marine jurisdictions such as the EEZ (Economic Exclusive Zone) and the continental shelf.

2) To discuss recent debates on the need to adjust baselines in the face of rising oceans.

For many scholars, baselines should not be changed. This means that in the future we could have EEZs and continental shelves with islands that are neither rocks nor even reefs, but simply parts of the ocean. This would give a whole new perspective on the traditional conception of land dominating the sea. Despite the surrealistic nature of this conclusion, it tells us something about our difficulties in bringing ocean issues into the climate change debate.