Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Peanut Hole

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Peanut Hole - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

The Peanut Hole was an area of open ocean at the center of the Sea of Okhotsk until 2014. From 1991 to 2014 its status was the subject of international disputes, although since March 2014 Peanut Hole’s seabed and subsoil is part of continental shelf of Russia.

The Peanut Hole (named for its shape) was an area about 55 kilometres (34 miles) wide and 480 kilometres (300 miles) long, and was surrounded by Russia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extending from the shores of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Kuril Islands, Sakhalin Island, and the Russian mainland (Khabarovsk Krai and Magadan Oblast), but was not in Russia’s default EEZ because it is more than 200 nautical miles (370 km) from any coast.

EEZ are not areas of sovereignty, but are areas of certain sovereign rights and functional jurisdiction. Since the Peanut Hole was not in the Russian EEZ, any country could fish there, and some began doing so in large numbers in 1991, removing perhaps as much as one million metric tons of pollock in 1992. This was seen by the Russian Federation as presenting a danger to Russian fish stocks, since the fish move in and out of the Peanut Hole from the Russian EEZ. (This situation is called a “straddling stock”.)

[T]hirty-nine Polish supertrawlers burst into the central part of the Sea of Okhotsk… followed by nine large South Korean trawlers and almost the entire Chinese fishing fleet. Somewhat later, fishing ships from Japan, Panama, Bulgaria and Ukraine appeared. A wild revelry began… Reluctant to observe elementary international fishing regulations, foreign fishermen set to clearing out the wealth of the northern sea.

The Russian Federation petitioned the United Nations to declare the Peanut Hole to be part of Russia’s continental shelf. In November 2013 a United Nations subcommittee accepted the Russian argument, and in March 2014 the full United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf ruled in favor of the Russian Federation.

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