700.022/9–1550: Circular airgram

The Acting Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions in the American Republics 1


Reference is made to Circular Airgram of July 21, 1949, which, included eight Latin American embassies; to Circular Airgram of March 7, 1950, to Caracas, Ciudad Trujillo and Port-au-Prince; Circular Airgram dated August 11, 1950 to Lima, Managua and Tegucigalpa.2 These all relate to the limits of territorial waters and inland waters claimed by the several republics.

Information is furnished below regarding the claims of each coastal country in the Americas, as tentatively formulated for incorporation in tabular form which will cover all the coastal countries of the world, and also for incorporation, so far as feasible, on a world map entitled “World: National Claims in Adjacent Seas”.

In the partial table which appears below (relating only to the Americas) the following abbreviations are used:

T=Territorial Sea width (always expressed in nautical miles, and always measured from low tide line on mainland and islands).

C=Contiguous Zone width (measured from low tide line, and therefore including the territorial sea).


T=3 mi.; C=12 mi. for security and fiscal laws; C also=continental shelf and “epicontinental sea.”


T=3 mi.; C=12 mi., for customs and sanitary regulations, security and coastal fishing.


T=3 mi.


T=3 mi.; C=12 mi., also 200 mi. for “all the natural resources.”


T=12 mi.

Costa Rica

T=3 mi.; C=200 mi.


T=3 mi.; C=12 mi., customs surveillance.

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Dominican Republic

T=3 mi.


T=3 mi.; C=12 mi. for security and fiscal laws, and 15 mi. for fishing.

El Salvador

T=3 mi.; C=12 mi., security, fiscal laws (200 mi. proposed, 1950 draft constitution).


T=12 mi. (decree, June 17, 1940)


T=?? (No information)


T=12 km. (6.49 naut. mi.)


T=9 mi.; C=continental shelf (to 200 meters depth at low tide).


T=3 mi. (?)


T=3 mi.; C=continental shelf for fishing purposes.


T=3 mi.; C=200 mi. for control and protection of national resources in continental and insular seas.

United States

T=3 mi.; C=12 mi. (in tariff acts since 1790)


T=?? (No information)


T=3 mi.; C=12 mi. for “vigilance, security and protection of national interests”.

[Here follows brief discussion of a “world map” being compiled in the Department, showing national claims to territorial seas and adjacent waters. The missions were informed that:

“It will be appreciated that never before have so many conflicting and inconsistent national claims in adjacent seas been asserted by coastal states throughout the world. Current studies are therefore being conducted in order … to reduce the area of conflict and to facilitate commerce by sea and air, and also reasonable development of resources of the sea and the subsoil of the seabed.”]

  1. Sent to Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Ciudad Trujillo, Guatemala, Habana, Lima, Managua, México, Montevideo, Panamá, Port-au-Prince, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, San José, San Salvador, Santiago, Tegucigalpa.
  2. Circular airgram of July 21, 1949, not printed.