Scientists are used to scientific jargon, not administrative and legal jargon. We've provided a brief encyclopedia of terms linked to pages on this website to help our readers understand how federal rulemaking works. If you have any suggestions for additional encyclopedia entries, please send them to us.
Internal waters: waters that lie landward of the coast, like bays and rivers.
Territorial sea: up to 12 nautical miles from the coast. States have jurisdiction in these waters.
Contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles seaward from the outer boundary of the territorial sea (usually 12 nautical miles from the coast). States have less jurisdiction in these waters.
Exclusive economic zone (EEZ): from the territorial sea boundary to 200 nautical miles seaward. This includes the contiguous zone. The EEZ is often referred to as "federal waters" because other state and federal entities have more use rights over this zone.
Continental shelf: sea bed and subsoil in areas beyond territorial sea and within 200 nautical miles of the coast.
High seas: everything in the ocean not included in the exclusive economic zone, territorial sea, or internal waters of the state; fewer state or federal rules apply. While the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea sets out rules for high seas, they are difficult to enforce.