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Continental shelf issues addressed by SOPAC

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A SOPAC-organised workshop, supported by technical partners and funded by AusAID, is taking place in Sydney to help Pacific Island countries develop their Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) submissions to the United Nations.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an island country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extends 200 nautical miles from its coastal baselines, which is calculated from the lowest tide levels. Article 76 of the Convention sets out criteria upon which an island country may establish an Extended Continental Shelf that extends beyond the 200 nautical mile limit.

Eight Pacific Island countries have lodged submissions for Extended Continental Shelf claims to the United Nations Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS). A further two are working towards their respective deadlines for submissions in 2013.

According to Arthur Webb, the Manager of the Ocean and Islands Programme at SOPAC, “Many island countries still have significant work to complete and update their lodged submissions. In several cases there is an important need for additional seafloor geological or depth of ocean data to support their existing submissions.”

The two-week long Sydney workshop, conducted by SOPAC with its technical partners Geoscience Australia, the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNEP SHELF Programme and 10 Pacific Island Country boundary teams is a continuation of a series of training workshops carried out since 2007.

Webb states “If countries are successful in their Extended Continental Shelf claims the sovereign rights of the State will only extend to the seabed and resources there-in.  It will not include resources such as fish in the ocean above. However, given the recent resurgence in deep sea mineral exploration, and other seafloor resources, conservation and biodiversity initiatives, the Pacific island countries still have much to gain by pursuing these claims.”

The Pacific Island countries taking part in the workshop have requested the assistance of SOPAC and its technical partners in the preparation of their coastal baselines based upon sound technical and scientific data.

SOPAC provides assistance to 19 island countries in the Pacific region through applied geoscience and technology.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 17:00  


Participants from Palau Government departments, Palau Red Cross and the media attended training last week on establishing and managing Emergency Operations Centers.

In 2012, Typhoon Bopha impacted Palau and affected hundreds of people and destroyed 70 homes, displacing 131 people, while in 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the whole northern-most state of Kayangel, destroying 39 homes and severely damaging dwellings from Babeldaob to Koror.

These two events highlighted a need for Palau to increase the number of personnel trained to manage the response to emergencies and to work in the National Emergency Operations Center. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), through support from the European Union project, Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific, is working with Palau to address this need by providing training in Emergency Operations Centers for 17 representatives of government, civil society and the media.

Ms Priscilla Subris, Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Office, opened the week-long training by stressing the importance of all agencies working together and thanking participants for taking the time ‘to learn how to be part of Palau’s response to future emergencies’.