Natural Resource Frontiers at SeaJune 9, 2010 By Schuyler Null
As burgeoning populations and growing economies strain natural resource stocks around the world, countries have begun looking to more remote and difficult-to-access resources, including deep-sea oil, gas, and minerals. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) guarantees exclusive access to these resources within 200 nautical miles of a nation’s sovereign territory – called an exclusive economic zone (EEZ). TD Architects’ “Exclusive Economic Zone” illustrates this invisible global chessboard and highlights some examples of disputed areas, such as the South China Sea, the Mediterranean, the Falkland/Malvina Islands, and the Arctic.
The creator of the map, Theo Deutinger, points out “that if a country owns a minuscule rock somewhere in the ocean, this rock’s exploitable surface increases from almost zero on-shore to 430,000 km² offshore.”
The Law of the Sea – which the U.S. has not yet ratified – also adds the possibility of expanding certain EEZs over a country’s continental shelf (shown as hash marks in the map) after individual consideration by the UN Continental Shelf Commission.
At the poles, the claims of several countries on Antarctica were frozen under the 1959 Antarctica Treaty, but much of the Arctic Ocean remains beyond the 200 nautical mile purview of UNCLOS EEZs, and Russia, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Canada, and the U.S. all have expressed interest in exploring and establishing claims in the far north.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster has demonstrated some of the risks of deep-sea resource exploration. But increasing resource demand means that drilling and exploration will certainly continue, which only enhances the importance of establishing EEZs in disputed areas.