Vol. 17, No. 32May 21, 1998

UD professor completes series on world's straits

Gerard Mangone, University Research Professor for International and Maritime Law, has completed editing the twelfth book in a series about the straits of the world, a task that has spanned two decades.

He initiated the series in 1978, as the United Nations Law of the Seas Convention grappled with the problem of expanding territorial seas from 3 to 12 miles. Straits are narrow waterways connecting two seas.

The U.N. decision would have had far-reaching consequences for the people who inhabit straits and for the nations that use them. For example, expanding jurisdiction over the waters that flow through the Strait of Gibraltar, only 9 miles wide in some places and the only water passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, would have given control of those waters to both Morocco and Spain as their territorial seas.

"A number of international waterways would have been subject to the coastal states, affecting more than shipping. You can't fly over waters that belong to a nation without its permission, and submarines cannot sail under its seas." Mangone said.

At the time, there was no scholarly body of work that examined the major straits of the world in enough detail to act as an effective tool for those having to research the problem.

Realizing the importance of this territorial question and that information on straits was lacking, the Rockerfeller Foundation awarded Mangone, an internationally known expert on admiralty law and marine policy, a grant to organize and edit a series of books describing the physical, economic and legal status of straits; a series that scholars and officials could turn to for factual information on the characteristics of these strategic land masses.

He began the series with two books-one about the northeast Arctic passage to the Bering Sea, north of what was then the United Soviet Socialist Republic, and the other about the Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia and Indonesia.

After that, Mangone contracted for and edited one or two books every two years leading to the twelfth book, on the Torres Strait between Australia and Papau New Guinea, released in 1997.

All the books delineate the topographic features of each strait, describing, in almost map-like detail, the physical properties of each area on land and beneath the sea. Each book accounts for the history of the strait, its significance to shipping, its climate, islands, indigenous and foreign settlements, economies, legal restrictions, environmental issues, contemporary problems and the role each area played during times of war.

In 1982, the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention did expand coastal states water rights jurisdiction to 12 miles, but left a portion of each international strait free for passage by ships and planes.

Mangone visited most of the straits in the series employing scholars in each region who were accomplished authors. These scholars researched and wrote the books, Mangone reviewed and edited them and arranged for publication.

He recalled that, while they were all brilliant scholars, the authors all were not into technology. "One book came to me entirely in longhand, which made editing a nightmare," he said.

Kluwer Law International in the Hague, Netherlands, published the series and distributed it internationally. Now that he has completed the series on all of the strategically significant natural straits, he intends to tackle the Panama and Suez canals as critical international waterways.

Mangone is the author of 12 books on marine policy and admiralty law and, in addition to the straits series, has edited another 20 books.

He joined the University in 1972 as part of the original faculty of the College of Marine Studies and was founder and director of the Center for the Study of Marine Policy, the first of its kind in the U.S.

He is an internationally recognized expert in marine policy and international and maritime law and has acted as a consultant to the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies. Mangone has traveled to a different part of the world every year for the past 47 years on teaching and research assignments.

-Barbra Garrison
Photo by Jack Buxbaum