PARIS – France extends borders by growing its maritime space

France’s maritime space is set to extend by 151,323 km2 in the Indian Ocean, off Reunion Island and the Southern and Antarctic Territories (TAAF), the French Secretariat-General for the Sea and the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) announced on Thursday (11 June).

“The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, a specialized body of the United Nations, published recommendations on 10 June 2020 authorising France to extend its continental shelf,” Ifremer, and Shom, the French Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service, said in a joint statement.

The continental shelf of France will reach an area of ​​730,000 km2, which is added to the 10.2 million km2 of waters under sovereignty (internal waters and territorial sea) or under French jurisdiction (Exclusive Economic Zone).

However, France only holds rights to the soil and subsoil of the seabed and not to the body of water above, which remains in the international domain, the statement added.

In 2015, four decrees formalized a first extension of 579,000 km2 of the French continental shelf off Martinique, the Antilles, Guyana, New Caledonia and the Kerguelen Islands.

France can still claim around 500,000 km2  of continental shelf under the files currently being examined or awaiting examination by the United Nations.

These extensions “increase the rights of France over the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the sea floor and subsoil beyond 200 nautical miles”, indicates the press release, which stresses however that “the exploitation of these underwater spaces is not on the agenda”.

The division of maritime space between nations is subject to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea from 1982, which grants permission to coastal states to extend their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles to a maximum of 350 miles, provided their lands have natural prolongation of the continental margin’s outer edge.

(EURACTIV.FR; Alexandra Brzozowski,

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