What is the limit of a coastal state’s rights to the marine area surrounding it?


Author: Cristina Lopez de las Heras (Volunteer)
Date: September 4, 2012

A country’s territory expands to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the coast, or if its continental shelf goes beyond that limit, it can extend further, to 350 miles. In order to be granted this extension, a country must provide sufficient geological and morphological arguments in support of this claim.

As part of a larger proposal to extend the Portuguese platform, giving the country jurisdiction over the seabed and subsoil beyond the current 200 miles EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), Portugal has launched a campaign with the help of an underwater robot “Luso” – which can reach depths of 6000 meters.  Since late August, the country has been focusing on the seabed surrounding the Azores islands, namely the underwater fault, Hayes.

Portugal currently has 92,000 km2 of land territory, including its islands, and 1.6 million km2 of the EEZ. If the UN supports its claim, the country would add 2.15 million km2 from the continental shelf to its marine area. This proposal was made ​​to the United Nations in 2009 and the final assessment will be made in 2016.

This mission is a great investment in the knowledge of the seabed, the critical first step for protection measures. We will continue to follow their research, as well as any conducted by other countries with similar purposes, and we hope that the exploration of new areas will lead to greater protection for the sea.