UN duties continue for geoscientist

12 July 2007

The senior advisor on Science and Law of the Sea with Geoscience Australia, Phil Symonds, who has been a member of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf since April 2002, has been elected to serve another five years.

His re-election came during voting in New York by 153 countries which are party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Dr Phil Symonds, PSM (Copyright Geoscience Australia 2007)

The 21 member Commission is a scientific and technical organisation which facilitates the establishment of the outer limit of the extended continental shelf by considering data and other materials submitted by countries before making recommendations on the proposed outer limit.

The extended continental shelf is determined by a UNCLOS formulae requiring information on water depth, the shape of the sea-floor and the thickness of sediment which is obtained from geological and geophysical surveys over the continental margin.

Mr Symonds, who has extensive experience in the collection and analysis of continental margin data, has been closely involved in technical aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea since the late 1970s, and has worked in Geoscience Australia's Law of the Sea project since its inception in 1994.

His Commission work has required frequent travel, including several trips annually to the United Nations offices in New York where he has been involved in examining submissions from numerous countries.

He also is involved in providing ongoing assistance to small-island and developing countries to help them meet their May 2009 deadline for lodging submissions with the Commission.

Mr Symonds led the scientific team which prepared Australia's November 2004 submission to the Commission seeking extension of the country's jurisdiction beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone to outer limit of the extended continental shelf.

The Commission's recommendations on the submission, which are expected later this year, could result in Australia gaining almost three million square kilometres of seabed and subsoil over which it will have environmental and resource management responsibilities.

Topic contact: media@ga.gov.au Last updated: October 4, 2013