The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the body of water that stretches from 12 nautical miles offshore out to a distance of 200 miles. Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea a coastal state has exclusive rights within its EEZ over fishing (although all EU member states have transferred their competence for conservation and management of sea fisheries to the EU), the production of energy from water and wind, the protection of the marine environment and the conduct of marine scientific research. A coastal state also enjoys exclusive sovereign rights to the recovery of oil and gas from the seabed beneath the EEZ, although this is governed by the separate legal regime of the continental shelf.
The Maritime Jurisdiction (Boundaries of Exclusive Economic Zone) Order 2014 was made by the Government on 11 February last and, together with the Continental Shelf (Designated Areas) Order 2014 made on the same day, gives effect to the 'Agreement between the Irish and British Governments establishing a single maritime boundary between the Exclusive Economic Zones and continental shelves of Ireland and the UK', signed by the British Ambassador and myself in Dublin on 28 March 2013. A map of the new boundaries is set out in the annex to the Agreement and I have sent a map to the Deputy directly. The 2013 Agreement was necessary because, although Ireland and the UK negotiated an agreement on continental shelf boundaries in 1988, no agreement on the EEZ boundaries above the continental shelf was attempted at that time. The two countries' declared EEZs therefore overlapped at the edges. The new Agreement establishes the agreed 1988 continental shelf boundaries as the boundaries for both the continental shelf and the EEZs above, with some small technical adjustments necessary to take account of the 200 nautical mile EEZ limit.
The Agreement brings legal certainty to boundary issues. This in turn will improve the protection of fisheries. While EU member states have transferred competence to the EU for the conservation and management of sea fisheries they remain responsible for enforcement of EU fisheries law within their own jurisdictions. Under the new Agreement therefore it will now be clear which State is responsible for law enforcement in EEZ areas that previously overlapped. Likewise there will now be clarity about which state is responsible for licensing renewable energy projects within EEZ boundary areas and for protecting the marine environment in those areas.
Following the making of the two Government Orders the Agreement entered into force on 31 March 2014. Immediately afterwards it was laid before Dáil Éireann in accordance with Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann and published in the Irish Treaty Series.