With the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939 and the later entrance of the United States into the war, the pattern of ocean uses changed significantly. Military actions on the seas and logistical support services involving the merchant marine of a number of states dominated traditional activities. The draft by the military of men with experience at sea and interference with fishery activities, either directly by closing off access to resources or indirectly by rationing fuel, impacted operations and were reflected in a decline of catch of both fish and whales. 1 Indeed, from the perspective of marine living resources, the war served as a significant respite from the ever-increasing harvesting effort of past decades. 2
Yet the war was to have profound effect on future ocean uses. For example, technological advances used to make oceans more transparent for purposes of antisubmarine warfare would be modified and utilized in the search for fish. 3 Further, the war highlighted the importance of oil in the modern world and the need for increased supplies of that commodity; as will be seen, knowledge of offshore oil deposits had been growing in the period preceding the war and, as technology developed, offshore oil exploitation was to become a reality. Demands for ocean resources were to grow with a vengeance.
As seen in previous chapters, consideration of the continental shelf in regard to international ocean law was linked to questions of fisheries. Legal interest in the continental shelf was to broaden as petroleum products became the fuel and lubricant of choice and the search for petroleum extended across the face of the globe. If oil pools were found in continental areas why should such pools be limited in their distribution to areas presently above sea level? 4 As the subsea extensions of continents, the shelf areas came to be seen as potentially significant sources of oil. The term “continental shelf” was soon to take on a legal meaning which, though somewhat ambiguous and subject to varying interpretations, was quite distinct from that applied to it by geologists, oceanographers, and other physical scientists. 5