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August 12th, 2008
Canada –U.S. to Jointly Survey Arctic Seafloor

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PR – The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, today announced that Canada and the United States will team up to conduct a joint survey of the undersea continental shelf in the western Arctic this fall. This joint research is another important step in mapping the polar continental shelf in the High Arctic, announced just days after Canadian scientists presented initial joint Canadian–Danish results for the eastern Arctic.

The CCGS Louis S. St.-Laurent icebreaker will leave Kugluktuk, Nunavut, on August 21 and collect seismic data in the Beaufort Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard Healy will leave Barrow, Alaska on August 14. On or about September 8, the two vessels will meet and for three weeks will conduct research as a two-ship operation.

“The collaborative effort announced today once again demonstrates our government’s commitment to re-affirming Canada’s sovereignty in the north,” said Minister Lunn. “Mapping Canada’s high arctic, in addition to our other significant investments in the North, is ultimately about turning potential into prosperity for this remarkable region and for our country as a whole.”

Canadian researchers have been conducting surveys and collecting geological data about the extent of the continental shelf to extend Canada’s territory beyond the current 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres), potentially adding up to 1.75 million square kilometres – an area about the size of the Prairie provinces.

Canadian representatives attended the 2008 International Geological Congress in Oslo, Norway, this past weekend to present findings to the global scientific community on joint Canadian–Danish surveys in the eastern Arctic about the natural extent of the North American continent.

BACKGROUND

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) confirms the sovereign rights of coastal states over the continental shelf for exploration and the use of natural resources within 200 nautical miles. In cases where the continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles, UNCLOS requires that a coastal state delimits the shelf’s outer limits using scientific criteria. Canada has until the end of 2013 to submit information on the extent of its continental shelf for the Arctic and Atlantic regions to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

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