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Monday, May 12, 2008

Solomon Islands and seven Pacific countries race against time to claim extra ocean space

With only one year remaining to the May 2009 deadline, Solomon Islands and seven other pacific island countries are beginning to feel the pressure to complete their submissions to the United Nations to claim extra ocean space.

Solomon Islands along with Fiji, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga and Papua New Guinea have a credible claim to more than 1.5 million square kilometers of additional space beyond their current 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

This is being made possible under article 76 of the International Law of the Sea.

A week long workshop on the preparation on the country’s submission on Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) starts today until Friday (16th of May) at the Southern Cross Hotel in Suva, Fiji.

The workshop is coordinated by the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and Geoscience Australia (GA) and the UNEP Shelf Programme.

SOPAC, GA and UNEP will help these countries to complete the activities required to delineate the outer limits of their continental shelf.

These countries are currently faced with the costly and complex work of data identification, collection, analysis and submission preparation. Due to limited technical and financial capacity they may not be able to complete the submission process without considerable external support, both technical and financial.

Scientific studies have revealed the access to extended continental shelf could mean more access to mineral rich resources previously outside our EEZ.

It’s the first time the pacific region is combining their efforts in its bid to extend their exclusive economic zones.

SOPAC Director Cristelle Pratt, said countries are committed to working together to improve lives in the Pacific.

“Securing greater maritime sovereignty can provide increased revenue for Pacific States and deliver significant economic and social benefits from access to ocean resources that occur on the seabed and within the subsoil.

Pratt says that assessments have identified strong grounds for these Pacific countries to extend sovereignty over their continental shelves.

“These Pacific Island Countries recognise that determining the boundaries of their Exclusive Economic Zone beyond 200 nautical miles is critical to securing exclusive ocean development of potentially rich non-living resources, such as oil, gas, gold and silver, as well as living organisms that live on and beneath the seabed,” Ms Pratt said.

Submissions to claim an extended continental shelf must be based upon sound technical data and meet requirements prescribed within Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS), to secure an extended Continental Shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Representatives from Foreign Affairs from the seven countries completed another workshop last week on the use of Japanese Software “CMDeterminer” and “Ocean Access” to help access and claim their Extended Continental Shelf. They are also present until the end of this week to discuss the issue.

Both workshops are vital opportunities to continue to assist Pacific Nations with ECS potential to develop and submit their respective extension claims before the impending deadline of May 2009.

SOPAC is a Pacific regional organisation committed to working with countries to strengthen disaster risk management, enhance access to freshwater, energy, information technology and communications and improve resource assessment and management of ocean and island resources.

Source: SOPAC

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