How are the boundaries between seas determined? Is there a proper process or just arbitrary?

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Take the Mediterranean region for instance, that’s split into several different seas. Alboran, Balaeric, Tyrrhenian, adriatic, ionian, and mediterranean. There are some that make more sense like the Kara sea or the Red sea which are more enclosed, but then you have places like the celtic sea which seems to be just some random stretch of the atlantic.

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Anonymous 0 Comments

It depends on whether you want to consider *territorial* waters, or whether you mean “seas” etc. as defined historically and culturally.

The former is defined by various international treaties and UN adjudications. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines coastal waters, and pretty much everyone agrees to abide by those conventions.

The latter are the result of accreted traditions, historical claims or definitions, and sociocultural patterns that are or were relevant to the area. There is no single standard, and often the boundaries themselves are extremely loose. Yes, this can lead to problems (e.g. disagreements from China on what they control vs don’t control in the waters of SE Asia), but as a general rule…these names are just regional names.

What defines “New England” or “The South” in the US, for example? What defines the “East” and “West Midlands” in the UK? These things are sociocultural boundaries, not rigidly-defined geographical ones.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Imagine looking at the Earth from space, with its sprawling blue oceans broken up by threads of land and scattered islands. Now, imagine drawing lines where the water changes direction around these lands or where different currents swirl around invisible points below. This is similar to how boundaries between seas are often determined.

Take the Mediterranean, a patchwork quilt of seas. These names and boundaries arise not just from clear physical markers like straits or islands,but also from centuries of navigation and human interaction with these waters.

Navigators of old would name stretches of water based on local landmarks, the paths they took, or the stories that emerged from those routes. Over time, these names and boundaries gained official status, often solidified by international agreements.

However, not all sea boundaries are defined by such clear or practical means. Sometimes, the distinctions between seas can seem arbitrary, more reflective of human geopolitical considerations or historical claims rather than distinct physical features. This leads to fascinating maps but also complex scenarios where different countries might view the same patch of ocean differently based on their historical and cultural lenses.