Canada's Program

Desktop studies show that Canada’s extended continental shelf in the Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans will be sizeable: approximately 1.7 million square kilometres -- equivalent in area to the three Prairie provinces.

Desktop studies show that the Pacific margin is narrow and it is unlikely the standard application of article 76 of the Convention will result in an extended continental shelf in this region. Thus, there are currently no plans to collect data to delineate a shelf off the Pacific coast.

The team

A team of scientists, technical personnel and lawyers from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are currently working to prepare Canada’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Natural Resources Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are responsible for collecting data, interpreting it and preparing the submission from a scientific and technical standpoint. They are also responsible for supporting engagement with the Commission as it considers Canada’s submission.  Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is responsible for ensuring the submission is legally sound, for undertaking associated diplomatic work and for overall engagement with the Commission.

Timing of the submission

States have ten years from the date they became party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to make their submission to the Commission, though by virtue of decisions taken at meetings of states parties to the Convention, this timeframe can be met by filing preliminary information about an intended submission. The Commission's rules of procedure also provide that, notwithstanding the provisions of the Convention regarding the ten year timeframe, partial submissions may be made to avoid prejudicing questions relating to the delimitation of boundaries between states in other portions of the continental shelf for which a submission may be made later. Since states became party to the Convention at different times, they have different ten year timeframes. Since Canada became party to the Convention in December 2003, its timeframe runs until December 2013.

Data collection

To prepare its submission Canada is making use of existing data but has had to collect a significant amount of new data, especially in the Arctic where the scientific work is being carried out in challenging environmental conditions. In some cases data is being collected in areas which have not previously been surveyed at all. To overcome these challenges, the Program has made novel use of Canadian technology, such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to collect bathymetric data, and has collaborated with neighbouring states.

The following is a list of surveys undertaken by Canada’s Program, including in cooperation with international partners, to collect data needed to delineate the outer limits of Canada’s continental shelf:

2012

  • Atlantic: Joint Canada-US survey

2011

  • Arctic: Fourth Joint Canada-US survey using the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and the USCGC Healy

2010

  • Arctic: Borden Island ice camp survey
  • Arctic: Third Joint Canada - US survey using the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and the USCGC Healy

2009

  • Arctic: Joint Canada - Denmark survey from ice camp at Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut
  • Arctic: Joint Canada - Denmark aerogravity survey
  • Arctic: Second Joint Canada - US survey using the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and the USCGC Healy
  • Arctic: participation in joint Danish-Swedish survey LOMROG II (Lomonosov Ridge off Greenland)
  • Atlantic: Joint Canada - Denmark survey in the Labrador Sea

2008

  • Arctic: ARTA (Alpha Ridge Test of Appurtenance)
  • Arctic: First Joint Canada - US survey using the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and the USCGC Healy

2007

  • Arctic: bathymetric survey conducted from Alert, Nunavut
  • Arctic: survey using CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent
  • Arctic: participation in Danish survey LOMROG (Lomonosov Ridge off Greenland)

2006

  • Arctic: Joint Canada - Denmark survey LORITA (Lomonosov Ridge Test of Appurtenance) 

Learn more about the science behind Canada’s Program at Surveys Under the Sea

Next steps

The Program is now interpreting data and writing the submission.