The legal status of mid-ocean archipelagos of mainland states under international law: The case of the Galapagos.

Vanessa Elizabeth Arellano


This sui generis case unmasks the deficiencies of a Constitution of the Oceans that failed to provide an equal framework to support the single unity of archipelagos and therefore safeguard their economic, security and environmental interests.

Certainly, archipelagos were not the hot topic in the traditional forums to discuss the Law of the Sea, as they were usually overshadowed by more “urgent” matters. In light of the unreasonable exclusion of mid-ocean archipelagos of mainland States from the archipelagic regime of UNCLOS, this article faces the challenge of providing a legal answer to justify the practice of the straight baseline method to enclose waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands.

This work inserts the reader into the negotiation process of the archipelagic regime of UNCLOS, only to conclude that the Ecuadorian claim cannot be sustained under PART IV. In contrast, Article 7 of UNCLOS and the Fisheries Case are both addressed, as they provide partial legal support. Nonetheless, it is the special circumstances surrounding the Galapagos that sustains the Ecuadorian claim; the immemorial exercise of jurisdiction over the waters of the Archipelago, the tolerance of neighbor States and the countless declarations from international bodies set the basis for a valid historic title.


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