Document Type


Publication Date



Gulf of Maine, boundary, management


One might be cynical about the usefulness of trying to draw legal guidance from a judicial determination of a United States-Canada dispute admitted by the judges themselves to be geographically unique. As stated by the majority of the judges in the Case Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Gulf of Maine Area (Gulf of Maine Case) decision:

"Although the practice is still rather sparse, owing to the relative newness of the question, it too is there to demonstrate that each specific case is, in the final analysis, different from all the others, that it is monotypic and that, more often than not, the most appropriate criteria, and the method or combination of methods most likely to yield a result consonant with what the law indicates, can only be determined in relation to each particular case and its specific characteristics."

However, this Article, after providing a brief historical overview of the Gulf of Maine dispute, suggests six general lessons to be extracted from the Gulf of Maine Case. Those lessons include: the utility of binding dispute resolution and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Chamber procedure; the flexibility in establishing the parameters for binding dispute resolution; the possible linkability of a binding dispute resolution agreement with other marine management and entitlement issues; the possible variability of maritime boundary claims over time; the divisibility of the line drawing task; and the advisability of pursuing the binding dispute resolution alternative.

Two additional lessons have emerged in the wake of the case. First is the continuity of transboundary ocean and coastal governance challenges, even after an ocean boundary is drawn. Second is the evolutionary nature of maritime boundary methodology where subsequent cases have further clarified the rather murky delimitation approach set out in the Gulf of Maine Case.

Publication Abbreviation

Ocean & Coastal LJ