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According to the full article, they are definitely talking about the continental shelf, not the abyssal plain beyond. I guess that refers to the large white bit south of Ireland.

A continental shelf is the edge of a land mass that extends into the sea, forming the seabed adjacent to the coast before it slopes away into deep ocean. Shelves are formed when tides erode land and lay down sediment, and they are rich in natural resources. Under the Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (1958), each country has the right to mine its coastline; others wanting to mine the seabed must get permission from the state whose coast borders that area of continental shelf. The convention set the shelf limit at 200 nautical miles from the coast. Countries with shelves that extend beyond this must agree on the limit with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. If the commission approves their bid, Ireland, France, Spain and the UK will win rights to mine the oil and gas in the disputed area, and prevent other countries from doing so.

Given that the methane deposits require rotting vegetation, which is gonna be hard to find at such depths, I think they're trying to extend their national boundaries to the very edges of the shelf.

Judging by your map, Irealnd and France have a good shout, whilst Spain and the UK are on dodgy ground.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 08:00:38 AM EST
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