JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE
2 December 1999
Move to Claim Extended Antarctic Continental Shelf
Under UNCLOS countries are entitled to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles from the coastline. Nations may also exercise sovereign rights over the physical continental shelf in areas beyond the EEZ.
Mr Downer said that it was believed that the continental shelf off our Antarctic Territory extended up to a further 150 nm beyond our existing EEZ - an area the size of Queensland.
"Under the rules of UNCLOS, Australia has until 2004 to lodge data delineating this additional area," Mr Downer said.
"It is a once only opportunity which, under current arrangements, is lost if the 2004 deadline is not met. The Howard government is not prepared to forgo the opportunity to add this area to Australia's marine territory.
"Our claim for the extended continental shelf is consistent
with our approach to the continental shelf around Australia for
which data is already being collected."
"The lodging of a claim for this area does not, however, indicate a weakening in the government's support for the Madrid protocol which prohibits mining south of 60 degrees south for at least 50 years.
"There are, however, other resources, such as genetic resources, which may be of value and would not involve mining. Australia's sovereign rights could be used to prevent others from exploiting the area so that the sea-bottom marine life is protected," Senator Hill said.
The government will provide approximately $30 million over
five years (depending on final chartering costs) for the necessary
research and survey work in the region.
Rod Bruem (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640
Innes Willox (Mr Downer's office) 02 6277 7500
DFAT - Matt Francis (02) 6261 1555
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