Myth 2: All lands and resources lying within ocean and coastal waters are publicly-owned.
Fact 2: Many areas lying below the high tide line along the coasts are privately owned.
Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs), specifically in the form of purchase-and-sale agreements, enable organizations to work with private owners of ocean and coastal areas to place their interests into conservation status. The ability of private entities to own land or resources lying below the high tide line along the coasts is state and country-dependent. But, depending on the area, private ownership of these areas can be quite common.
- Intertidal land ownership: In the United States, lands lying between high tide lines and low tide lines (inter-tidal lands) are frequently owned by adjacent upland owners, which are often private individuals. For example, in Washington State, approximately 70% of the intertidal areas in the Puget Sound are privately-owned and in Massachusetts, approximately 75% of the intertidal areas of the coast are privately-owned. As such, lands that are frequently covered by ocean and coastal waters are frequently privately owned.
- Subtidal land ownership: It is less common in the United States that lands lying below low tide lines (subtidal lands) are owned by private entities. While it is less common, it is not impossible. Subtidal lands within Oregon estuaries are frequently owned by private entities as are subtidal lands in San Francisco Bay, California. Also, in some cases, historical survey and platting practices applied to intertidal areas resulted in parcels with boundaries that extend well beyond the line of extreme low tide.
- Resources: To the extent that private entities own fee-simple interests in lands lying below high tide lines, they may also hold certain rights over the gas, oil, mineral, plant, animal, water, air, and sediment resources that lie within the sites. Private interest in the resources will be subject to geographic-specific (local, state, and federal) interpretations and applications of public and private rights as well as the conditions identified in parcel deeds. Also, rights to certain resources can be leased from public and private owners. In this case, the specific rights are normally explicit within the conditions of the leases.