UN confirms Australia's extended marine jurisdiction

22 April 2008


Australia's submission for jurisdiction over an additional 2.56 million square kilometres of seabed has been confirmed by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP, Minister for Resources and Energy, outlining the extension of the continental shelf, click to enlarge (image courtesy of ABC News)

The Commission has confirmed the location of the outer limit of Australia's continental shelf in nine distinct marine regions, which entitles Australia to large areas of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

This decision means Australia now has jurisdiction over an extra 2.56 million square kilometres of continental shelf, which is almost five times the size of France, almost 10 times the size of New Zealand, and approximately the same size as Western Australia.

In these areas, Australia has exclusive rights to what exists on the seabed, including oil, gas and biological resources.

"This is a major boost to Australia's offshore resource potential and also to our ability to preserve the marine environment on the seabed," Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP, said.

The confirmation is in response to a submission made through a close partnership between Geoscience Australia, the Attorney General's Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"It is the culmination of 15 years of cutting edge work, carried out under Geoscience Australia's Law of the Sea project", Geoscience Australia's Chief Executive Officer, Neil Williams said.

"The dedication and ongoing commitment shown by the project team has resulted in this fantastic outcome for Australia", he said.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the continental shelf extends at least 200 nautical miles from Australia's coastline.

Australia is also entitled to the submerged prolongation of its landmass extending beyond 200 nautical miles (the so-called extended continental shelf), to limits defined in the 1982 Convention.

To confirm Australia's entitlement, Geoscience Australia analysed an enormous amount of new data gathered on 17 marine surveys conducted over eight years in some of the most remote and inhospitable parts of the world's oceans.

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