AIST Stories No1
24/36

From AIST to the Innovative World22Coastal States, including Japan, will have sovereign rights over the extended continental shelf, for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources. This is of great significance for Japan as a resource-poor country, as well as for developing coastal States and small island developing States. In addition to the exploration of expectant marine resources at hand, scientific clarification of the continental shelf through surveys and research is far important by promoting the peaceful use of the seas and oceans, equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of marine life, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment as a whole.Extention of Japan’s continental shelfThe extended continental shelf: Impetus for a marine resources survey contributing to future societyAIST’s unique contribution with its geoscientific discipline to a government project! Continental Shelf Research project teamIs Japan’s continental shelf extened? “Japan’s continental shelf extended” in April 2012. This news was reported along with expectations towards the future. Moreover, the newly extended area is equivalent to approximately 80% of Japan’s land area. So just what is expansion of a continental shelf and why should it be welcomed.Many will recall from their science and social studies lessons in middle school that “the continental shelf is a flat shallow geographical feature with a water depth reaching to 200 m.” From another perspective, “continental shelf” exists as a juridical term in the United Nations’ Convention on the Continental Shelf of 1964 as “the coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources” The continental shelf that has been expanded here is the latter one.The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the so-called “marine constitution,” was adopted in 1982. This was an historic year and critical juncture in which a strict definition of the continental shelf and the means of determining it was indicated. According to this, besides the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) seabed extending 200 nautical miles from coastal nations, if conditions such as the geographical feature or geology being continuous with the land are satisfied, then a continental shelf that extends beyond 200 nautical miles will be recognized.Countries may claim development rights for the seabed resources present in sea areas that are recognized as continental shelf. A large area has been recognized as extended continental shelf and this implies that a route has been opened up for development of new natural resources present in the seabed within these confines. This is in reality delightful news for resource-poor Japan.Exhibiting collective strength as a marine geology specialist groupNeedless to say, coastal countries cannot just go about extending their continental shelves unilaterally as long as the conditions are satisfied. In order for a continental shelf to be extended, coastal countries must apply to the United Nations based on provisions in international law and a 1994United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea enacted1996Japanese Government Ratifies Convention on the Law of the Sea2003Japanese Government Inaugurates continental shelf assessment/advisory councilMarch 2004AIST Inauguration of Continental Shelf Survey Project TeamContinental Shelf Survey Study Working Group (review of main points for survey plan) August 2004Japanese Government Draws up basic policy for continental shelf submission November 2004AIST Inaugurates continental shelf research projectJanuary 2005Japanese Government Inaugurates task force to prepare submission of information draft to the United Nations2003–2008AIST Surveys and analysesNovember 2008Japanese Government Submission to UN of petition to extend continental shelf2009–Japanese Government Inaugurates task force to respond to judgment on continental shelf submission and respond to examination of Japan Subcommittee of Commission on the Limits of the Continental ShelfApril 2012Japanese Government Receipt of the recommendation from United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf The road to recognition of Japan’s extended continental shelf (AIST-related) AIST in present day living! Our life and society will change in this way!

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