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Australia's oceans and seas include those off the mainland and its offshore territories in the Pacific, Southern and Indian Oceans as well as the Timor, Tasman and Coral Seas. Following a recommendation by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on 9 April 2008, Australia has a confirmed outer limit to its continental shelf extending beyond 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline associated with both the continent and its remote offshore territories.

The decision by CLCS recommended increasing the area of the continental shelf by 2.56 million square kilometres, which is approximately the size of Western Australia. Geoscience Australia was responsible for the surveys, data analysis and interpretation required to delineate the outer limits of the extended Continental Shelf through its Law of the Sea project.

Australian Exclusive Economic Zone

Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is one of the largest in the world with the total marine area of around 10 million square kilometres which is considerably larger than the 7.69 million square kilometres of the Australian mainland States and Territories.

A depiction of Australia's marine jurisdiction. © Geoscience Australia.

A depiction of Australia's
marine jurisdiction.
© Geoscience Australia

This EEZ area is made up of 8.2 million square kilometres off Australia and its remote offshore territories, and 2 million square kilometres off the Australian Antarctic Territory. It extends to a distance of not more than 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline.

Within its EEZ Australia has certain sovereign rights to the natural resources (living and non-living) of the water column, seabed and subsoil in areas adjacent to Australia's Territorial Seas and allows Australia jurisdiction over the water column, seabed and subsoil.

As well as the EEZ, Australia has jurisdiction over its Territorial Seas and Contiguous Zones, both of which are internationally recognised Maritime Boundary Definitions. Australia also has its Coastal Waters, which is a national zone peculiar to Australian legislation.

The size of Australia's EEZs is shown in the table below and can be seen in the Examples of Maritime Boundary Maps.

Area of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone

EEZ AREA (km2)
Heard and McDonald Islands 410 722
Cocos Islands 463 371
Christmas Island 325 021
Norfolk Island 428 618
Macquarie Island 471 837
Australia 6 048 681
TOTAL 8 148 250
Source: AMBIS 2001. Calculated in November 2000. Note: Area excludes the EEZ off Antarctica.

Topic contact: education@ga.gov.au Last updated: November 18, 2010