Southern Ocean GasEx Blog

Dispatches from the Southern Ocean Gas Exchange Experiment

Argentina Continental Shelf

Posted by sogasex on March 16, 2008

By Juan I. de Abelleyra, Servicio de Hidrografia Naval, Argentina

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), when a country wants to collect data in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of another coastal state, it needs to ask for a permission from the coastal state. The coastal state should give the permission and has the right to access to the collected data, to take part in the survey and/or to be represented on board.

In this particular case (GasEx III), the Argentinean Foreign Affairs Ministry gave the corresponding permission to develop oceanographic research while the vessel is in our EEZ through the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires, and requested to have on board NOAA Ship Ronald Brown an observer during the cruise. We also asked National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) if it did exist a possibility to record multibeam data during the cruise while working in the region of the continental slope, and this was accepted.

Argentina, as many other coastal states, is planning to produce a submission for claiming the extension of its continental shelf beyond the 200 mile limit, and to present this submission during next year 2009 to be considered by the commission appointed by UNCLOS. This will be, after agreement with UN, the definitive outer limit of the continental shelf.

Most of the submission is based in bathymetric and seismic information and in geological and geophysical considerations. The whole formula established by UNCLOS to set the limit of the shelves part from the location of the foot of the slope, and this is mainly supported in bathymetric information. From the foot of the slope, the extension of the outer limit may be established in consideration of the thickness of sediments or just applying a distance of 60 miles from that location.

Argentina has already made several seismic and bathymetric surveys along the slope to support the submission. We made those surveys by our own, and also under cooperation agreements with BGR and AWI Federal Research institutes from Germany, but there still exists a need of data in some areas. During this current year the remaining single beam bathymetric survey will be conducted with an Argentinean oceanographic vessel, and the submission will be presented to UNCLOS Commission before the deadline established for the first half of 2009.

The multibeam bathymetry data we can get form NOAA Ship Ronald Brown, and the same kind of information obtained from R/V Nathaniel Palmer and R/V Marion Dufresne, after being processed in Servicio de Hidrografia Naval will be very useful for controlling of our single beam lines already done or to be made. It will be also of great use for a more accurate planning of the remaining lines to be surveyed by our own and to support the Argentinean Submission with high quality data.

Working for Servicio de Hidrografia Naval of Argentina, I am part of the technical staff of a National Commission, named COPLA, specially created to deal with the problem of the elaboration of the Submission an reporting to Foreign Affairs Ministry. Thus, I was sent on board not only to be an observer to assure our government that the research to be made in our EEZ is conducted according to the application presented through the US Embassy, but to have the opportunity given by NOAA to get multibeam information while the ship is working in the area of the continental slope.

While Argentina has not the capability for multibeam surveying, the whole data we will use in support our the submission is coming to us thanks to the cooperative attitudes assumed by National Sciences Foundation (NSF), French Polar Institute (IPEV), Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), and now, good to say, from NOAA.


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