Canada’s Extended Continental Shelf

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides that all coastal states have a continental shelf extending 200 nautical miles from coastal baselines or beyond 200 nautical miles if the shelf is a natural prolongation of its land territory. The Convention also recognizes that coastal states have sovereign rights over the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of the continental shelf as well as jurisdiction over certain activities like marine scientific research.  The continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles is colloquially known as the “extended or outer continental shelf”. An estimated 85 countries, including Canada, are thought to have an extended continental shelf.

On December 6, 2013 Canada filed a partial submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in respect of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. Canada also filed preliminary information concerning the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. Canada is continuing to collect and analyze continental shelf data in the Arctic Ocean and is collaborating with neighbouring states in the scientific, technical and legal work needed to do so.

Securing international recognition for the full extent of Canada’s extended continental shelf is a priority articulated in the Northern Strategy and the Statement on Arctic Foreign Policy.