United States has grown by 1 million square km: Extended continental shelves may not sound very familiar to the uninitiated, but they are very important to countries looking to define or even expand their international territory, which the United States has recently done.
On December 19, 2023, the US State Department announced new coordinates for what they believe to be their vast continental shelf.
Shelves (or ECS for short) are areas of shallow seabed on the coasts of large landmasses and can extend up to 230 miles from shore. Therefore, countries can exploit any natural resources that may exist in these areas by expanding their land.
IFL Science reports that the United States has followed the lead of 75 other countries by expanding their ECS, and they didn’t just expand it a bit. The United States claims 1 million square kilometers of ECS, almost twice the size of Spain.
In total, these shelves form seven areas in the Arctic, Atlantic Ocean (East Coast), Bering Sea, Pacific Ocean (West Coast), Mariana Islands, and two areas in the Gulf of Mexico.
“America is bigger than it was yesterday,” said Mead Treadwell, former lieutenant governor of Alaska and former head of the US Arctic Research Commission, in a report published by Alaska Public Media.
“It’s not quite the Louisiana Purchase. It’s not quite the Alaska Purchase, but the new area of land and subsurface resources under US control is twice the size of California,” he added.
This could expand America’s potential in areas such as mining, shipping, fishing, and security in the aforementioned locations, but it would first require approval, which could be difficult.
In a separate post for the Wilson Center, Treadwell explains that the United States should submit its research and data to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
However, due to long-standing political differences, the United States is one of the few countries that is not a party to UNCLOS and can play a role in its programs.
Treadwell is adamant about it, though, adding, “If someone came back and said, ‘Your science is bad,’ I think the United States would listen. But I don’t think science is bad. I think we’ve been pretty good. Basic science.”