Third Canada-U.S. Joint Continental Shelf Survey to Showcase Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic

(No. 238 – July 26, 2010 – 4:15 p.m. ET) For five weeks in August and September 2010, the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and the U.S. icebreaker USCGC Healy will be teaming up for the third time to conduct a joint survey of the extended continental shelf in the western Arctic. Joint operations will be conducted from August 7 to September 3.

“Enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the Arctic is a priority for our government,” said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources. “This third joint survey is an important example of how we are continuing to work with other Arctic nations to apply a science-based approach in our efforts to determine the extent of Canada’s continental shelf.”

The two vessels complement each other in the type of data they can collect. The USCGC Healy collects bathymetric data with its multi-beam echo sounder to generate impressive three-dimensional images of wide swaths of the sea floor. The CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent has a seismic array specially adapted to collect data on the composition of the shelf in ice-covered waters.

“The contribution of the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and its experienced crew is essential to delineating Canada’s continental shelf,” said the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. “The Government of Canada welcomes the opportunity to provide this key Coast Guard asset to such important work.”

The survey will continue last year’s work on the region north of Alaska onto the Alpha-Mendeleev Ridge and eastward toward the Canadian Arctic archipelago. The focus will be on collecting seismic data. In addition, assuming ice conditions permit, the vessels will optimize their respective strengths in data collection and the time available to the joint program by conducting single-ship operations in the Beaufort Sea. The CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent will work within the U.S. exclusive economic zone to collect seismic data, while the USCGC Healy will collect bathymetric data in a swath of the Beaufort Sea that, if needed to trace the foot of the slope, could include waters disputed by Canada and the United States.

“Canada and the United States need this data, both to delineate the continental shelf and to assist in the eventual resolution of the Beaufort Sea maritime boundary dispute, so it makes a great deal of sense to collect it as part of a joint program,” said the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “At the Arctic Ocean ministerial meeting I hosted in March, we noted the strong cooperation between Arctic Ocean coastal states on continental shelf delineation. This joint survey is an excellent example.”

Canada and the United States plan to work together again in 2011. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada has until 2013 to prepare a submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to delineate the outer limits of its extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from shore, thereby determining with precision where it can exercise its sovereign rights over the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is responsible for preparing the submission. Natural Resources Canada’s Geological Survey of Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Canadian Hydrographic Service are responsible for the scientific work needed for the submission.

For more information, consult The Science of Surveying Under the Sea, Canada’s Extended Continental Shelf and the United States’ Extended Continental Shelf Project.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Melissa Lantsman
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Richard Walker
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources Canada

Media Relations
Natural Resources Canada

Nancy Bishay
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada