Undelicious Donut Holes
November 23, 2014 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Many people have discussed discussed the Bir Tawil trapezoid before, a piece of land unclaimed by either Sudan and Egypt, because both would rather possess the disputed (and more fertile) Hala'ib triangle.

Likewise, some are already familiar with Neutral Moresnet's century of statelessness, the result of post-Napoleonic border disputes between Prussia and the Netherlands. This time, both wanted a useful zinc mine, and compromised that neither state could have it.

But, enough of the complicated borders of the land. Surely, the sea is more easily divided?

Well, no.

There are bog-standard territorial disputes such as the Falklands/Malvinas, or Hans Island, but those, again involve boring land masses.

What of the beautiful, beautiful open waters, whose politicized waters range from the old 3 nautical mile limit (still the case for Jordan) to the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (claimed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, for example)? That's where things get more interesting.

That's when you get donut holes.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A bonus for anyone who came here wondering about weird exclaves of the world: R├╝ckschlag, an national, subnational, and municipal exclave consisting of a single household and garden, separated from Germany, the German state of Nordrhein-Westphalia and the German city of Monschau, by Belgium's Vennbahn, the maker of several other German exclaves.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 7:26 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

The territorial holes in the Philippine Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk are most interesting to me because unlike the others they are surrounded entirely by one country's economic zone. How does that work? If you manage to navigate through hundreds of miles of Russian territorial waters, you can start fishing or drilling in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk without reprisal? I don't see the Russian Admiralty taking a kind view of such interlopers, legal or not.
posted by thecjm at 8:07 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

What's the definition of a donut hole here? Is it just that it's relatively small and surrounded by territorial waters? Because apart from size, I don't see what the difference is between a "donut hole" and just international waters.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:22 PM on November 23, 2014

Nope, you got it, a donut hole is a watery no-man's-land, surrounded entirely by territorial waters.

The fun part, as noted above, is when said international waters are surrounded on all sides by the same nation's territorial waters. Tee hee.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:42 PM on November 23, 2014

The map gives one interesting example: most of the Bering Sea was in the EEZ of Russia or the USA, except for a "donut hole". That area was international waters, so neither Russia nor the USA could prevent foreign fisheries operating there.

It turns out that fish don't respect international boundaries, and if you just slurp up whatever fish you find in a "donut hole" they will get replaced by fish swimming out of adjacent EEZs! That is, until they're all gone. Oops.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:48 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

ivan ivanych samovar: "Nope, you got it, a donut hole is a watery no-man's-land, surrounded entirely by territorial waters."

If you want to be pedantic, all international waters are "surrounded entirely by territorial waters", so I guess there's some arbitrary limit here where it needs to be small (or at least not be most of an ocean, or something).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:49 PM on November 23, 2014

Oh, here's a web page on the Bering Sea donut: North Pacific Overfishing (DONUT)
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:50 PM on November 23, 2014

Reminds me of the guy who said he could smoke pot sitting on a Post Office mail box because only Federal Authorities have jurisdiction there, and the local police are powerless.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:53 PM on November 23, 2014

The 200 mile limit that creates donut holes isn't strict territorial control, is it? I thought it was only for the purposes of economic development. You can transit it, but you can't drill it, so those donut holes aren't inaccessible even to ships engaged in drilling or fishing in the donut hole, correct?
posted by fatbird at 10:03 PM on November 23, 2014

I think this means those spots dong have posted lifeguards.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:45 AM on November 24, 2014

That map is great. I love the way it just keeps scrolling forever East or West as if you were spinning a globe.
posted by straight at 7:19 AM on November 24, 2014

The big part with the 200 mile EEZ is that you can regulate within it. That's why Icelandic coast guard ships are so well armed -- to keep foreign vessels from taking so much that Icelandic fisheries suffer.

Offshore oil were originally an also-ran, compared to fisheries management.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:15 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

To answer my own questions - the donut hole in the Sea of Okhotsk is known as the Peanut Hole.

In 1991, when I imagine the Russian navy was struggling to pay for fuel, fishing fleets from China, Korea, and POLAND swooped in to the Peanut Hole and depleted the Pollock stock. Soon thereafter they put an international moratorium on fishing that part of the sea, and Russian has been working to get that area declared part of their continental shelf so that it can be declared territorial waters despite being beyond the 200 mile limit.
posted by thecjm at 10:34 AM on November 24, 2014

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