Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes
Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds
Chapter 3: Defining and recognizing the outer limits of the continental shelf in the polar regions
According to article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention), a coastal state exercises sovereign rights over the continental shelf for the purpose of managing and exploiting its natural resources. The extent and limits of the continental shelf in this respect are defined in article 76 of the Convention. For many states, the continental shelf in the sense of article 76 may extend beyond the 200 nautical mile (nm) limit as measured from their baselines. According to Annex II to the Convention, a coastal state, which intends to establish such outer limits, shall submit particulars of such limits to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) along with supporting scientific and technical data as soon as possible, but in any case within ten years of entry into force of the Convention for that state. The mandate of the CLCS is to consider the data and other material submitted by coastal states concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf in areas where those limits extend beyond 200 nm, and to make recommendations in accordance with article 76 on matters related to the establishment of those outer limits (see the Convention: article 76, paragraph 8, and article 3.1.(a) of Annex II). This Convention-driven process of establishing the outer limits of the continental shelf, and consequent bilateral maritime delimitations, is now well under way worldwide; the Polar Regions are no exceptions.
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