Start Geo Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
geology dictionary - geography encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   



continental shelf

  The area of submerged continental rock forming the continental margin lying closest to the shore. It terminates abruptly at varying depths and distances out to sea, but is everywhere relatively clearly defined physically. The political significance of the continental shelf has increased rapidly during the second half of the twentieth century as the exploitation of underwater resources, in addition to fisheries, has become a realistic prospect. The earliest claim was made by Argentina in 1944, when it asserted rights over offshore mineral resources. A year later President Truman issued Proclamation 2667, claiming USA sovereignty over the sea bed and the subsoil of the continental shelf, although not over the waters above. Other states were quick to follow suit, but in the absence of any clear definition of the continental shelf much confusion ensued. In 1958 the UN Convention on the Continental Shelf gave states the right to exploit the mineral resources of their coastal waters to a depth of 200 m or beyond if exploitation were technically feasible. In the furtherance of such exploitation, states were permitted to build (or agree to the construction of) permanent structures, such as oil wells, as long as they were not accorded the status of islands with territorial waters of their own, and provided that they did not pose an undue hazard for shipping. The convention also gave states rights to sedentary species of living things on the sea bed, such as shellfish and crustacea, but not fish. The changes to the law of the sea which came into force in 1994 under the terms of the 1982 UN Convention have radically revised this definition. In legal terms, the continental shelf is now deemed to extend for 200 nautical miles from the coastal baseline of a state, and in a few instances further, up to 350 nautical miles, providing such an extension is agreed by the newly established Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Within this area states have exclusive rights to explore and exploit the natural resources. (MB)

Suggested Reading Juda, L. 1996: International law and ocean use management. The evolution of ocean governance. London and New York: Routledge.



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>
contiguous zone
contingent valuation


Other Terms : quadtree | place/space tensions | megalopolis
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us