What Lies Beneath: In April, the Cook Islands Submitted a Claim for an Area of Seabed Some 2,500 Times Its Total Land Area. the Claim Was One of 51 Made to the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf before the May Deadline. at Stake Is Potentially Billions of Pounds in Mineral Resources, but the Question of Who Owns What Is Far from Clear

By Rowe, Mark | Geographical, August 2009 | Go to article overview

What Lies Beneath: In April, the Cook Islands Submitted a Claim for an Area of Seabed Some 2,500 Times Its Total Land Area. the Claim Was One of 51 Made to the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf before the May Deadline. at Stake Is Potentially Billions of Pounds in Mineral Resources, but the Question of Who Owns What Is Far from Clear


Rowe, Mark, Geographical


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

When Russia dispatched a mini-submarine to plant a titanium flag four kilometres beneath the North Pole in 2007, the gesture was interpreted in some quarters as being tongue in cheek, Soon enough, however, it emerged that no humour was intended: the Russians were perfectly serious about laying claim to the seabed under the North Pole. They even produced rock samples that, they argued, proved that the Lomonosov Ridge, an undersea structure that runs across the Arctic Ocean, was part of Mother Russia.

But the Russians aren't alone. Others also have their eyes on the Arctic seabed, which, according to US Geological Survey estimates, holds a quarter of the world's undiscovered reserves of fossil fuels. And around the world, just about every nation with a coastline is now staking a claim to ocean seabed hundreds of kilometres from dry land.

In a peculiarly 21st-century dash for valuable undersea real estate, up to 50 countries have submitted evidence of the extended seabed beyond their coastline to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), a panel created under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS) to review and certify the legitimacy of such claims.

Traditionally, under Article 36 of the Law of the Sea, coastal states are granted exclusive oil and gas rights to waters within 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) of their coastlines. But claims may be extended to up to 350 nautical miles if nations can provide Scientific proof that the undersea continental plate is a natural extension of their territory. All seabed beyond these areas of national jurisdiction is known as the 'Area', international waters that belong, according to the UN, to the common heritage of humanity, and are administered by the International Seabed Authority.

May marked the deadline for those countries who ratified the UNCLS before 1999 to submit claims for ownership of the seabed. Those who ratified the convention more recently, or have yet to do so, have up to ten years to submit their own case. The one notable absentee from this activity is the USA, which has yet to ratify the treaty.

However. while this might sound nice and straightforward, it's just the beginning of the ambiguities that plague this whole process. 'A lot of international lawyers disagree with the view that nations had to claim it now or lose it, but in some ways that is the case,' says Martin Pratt, director of research at the International Boundaries Research Unit, Durham University. "Governments didn't want to miss the deadline in case it compromised their claims. It's a murky legal area.'

Although the waters above the claimed areas will remain international, the Law of the Sea mandates that states can win the sole right to exploit anything on or beneath the seabed, including creatures that crawl along it, if they can convince the commission that the zones are a natural extension of their dry, landmasses.

'It isn't an extension of sovereignty, it's only an extension of sovereign fights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting its resources,' says Hariharan Pakshi Rajan, a senior officer at the UN's Division for Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

Scientifically, the natural prolongation of the land under the sea can go up to the end of the continental margin. Mapping has involved plotting submarine contours that mark the outer edges of the continental shelf and establishing the foot of an underwater continental slope, thousands of metres down. Criteria are moveable, to reflect the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences in the geological and geomorphological characteristics of the seabed. 'Governments are allowed to review submissions of other states, but the costs of surveying are so prohibitive that unless a state has acquired data, they couldn't possibly afford to go and revisit a site, although they can question the data,' says Pratt. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Lies Beneath: In April, the Cook Islands Submitted a Claim for an Area of Seabed Some 2,500 Times Its Total Land Area. the Claim Was One of 51 Made to the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf before the May Deadline. at Stake Is Potentially Billions of Pounds in Mineral Resources, but the Question of Who Owns What Is Far from Clear
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.