Ecuador is a coastal State located in northwestern South America. Ecuador shares land boundaries with Colombia (north) and Peru (west and south) and faces the Pacific Ocean (west) . The land territory of Ecuador also includes the Galapagos Islands (Archipiélago de Galápagos), located approximately 500 M (927 km) west of Ecuador’s mainland coast. The Galapagos Islands form an archipelago that consists of 19 main islands and numerous smaller features. Four islands are inhabited, and the largest island, Isla Isabela, accounts for almost 60 percent of the total land area of the archipelago.
Ecuador’s Supreme Decree No. 959-A of 1971 sets forth straight baselines from which Ecuador measures the breadth of its territorial sea. Ecuador’s straight baselines pertain to both Ecuador’s mainland coast and the Galapagos Islands. It appears that neither Ecuador’s decree nor any subsequent enactment includes published geographical coordinates of the baseline points used by Ecuador. It also appears as though Ecuador has not deposited charts or lists of geographical coordinates with the UN Secretary-General that depict its straight baselines. As a result, this analysis relies solely on the descriptions of Ecuador’s straight baselines contained in its 1971 decree.
Ecuador’s baseline system for the Galapagos Islands consists of eight segments connecting eight points. The eight segments have a total length of approximately 552 M. The baselines are drawn around the outermost eight islands of the archipelago, enclosing the other islands therein. As indicated in the table below, baseline lengths range from 37 to 124 M.
The coastlines of the Galapagos Islands are generally smooth with promontories and volcanic, rocky outcrops. Some islands, such as Isla Genovesa, have lagoons or other bay-like indentations. Most islands are small, such that they do not readily admit to deep indentations. The islands on the perimeter of the Galapagos archipelago are also separated by considerable distances, from approximately 16 to more than 70 M. Isla Darwin is separated from the other Galapagos Islands that comprise the straight baseline system by more than 95 M. These distances are large relative to the size of the islands themselves, indicating that the islands used for the straight baselines cannot be said to fringe one another or be in the “immediate vicinity” of one another. Because the coastlines of these islands are not “deeply indented and cut into” nor are they fringed with “islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity,” they do not meet the geographic requirements in Article 7 for the use of straight baselines.
Ecuador’s straight baselines around the Galapagos Islands cannot be considered archipelagic baselines under Part IV of the Convention. As provided in Article 47, only “[a]n archipelagic State may draw straight archipelagic baselines.” Article 46 specifies that an “‘archipelagic State’ means a State constituted wholly by one or more archipelagos and may include other islands” (emphasis added). Continental States with offshore archipelagos, such as Ecuador, are not archipelagic States and therefore may not draw archipelagic baselines. It appears that Ecuador recognizes this limitation, considering that its 2012 declaration upon accession to the Convention refers only to “straight baselines” (Article 7 of the Convention) and not archipelagic baselines (Article 47).
During the negotiation of the Convention at the Third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III, 1973–1982), Ecuador proposed draft Convention text providing that “[t]he method applied to archipelagic States for the drawing of baselines shall also apply to archipelagos that form part of a [non-archipelagic] State ….” Such a provision, had it been adopted, would have enabled Ecuador to draw baselines around the Galapagos Islands utilizing the archipelagic baseline provisions that were eventually adopted as Article 47 of the Convention. The decision of States to limit the applicability of Article 47 to archipelagic States demonstrates that non-archipelagic States, like Ecuador, must conform their baselines to the relevant provisions of the Convention set forth in Part II of the Convention as described in the Basis for Analysis section above.
Ecuador has concluded maritime boundary agreements with Peru (1952 and 2011), Colombia (1975 and 2012), and Costa Rica (1985 and 2014). Ecuador’s boundaries with these States are shown on Map 5 to this study. It does not appear that Ecuador has any unresolved maritime boundaries.