The main mission of the Portuguese Task Group for the Extension of the Continental Shelf (EMEPC) is to support Portugal’s submission to the UN and to interact with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).
An important step towards that mission was achieved with the delivery of the Portuguese submission to the CLCS, on 11 May 2009,
On 1 August 2017, Portugal transmitted an Addendum to the submission based on new bathymetric, geological and geophysical data gathered. This Addendum revised, updated and consolidated the 2009 document, and included new information on the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. The consideration of the Portuguese submission started on 14 of August 2017.
In order to best fulfill its mission and objectives, it is essential to continue to acquire technical and scientific data. It is also important to promote the advancements in areas such as, hydrography, geology, geophysics, biology, oceanography, geographic information systems, underwater robotics and public international law, thus providing Portugal with greater technical, scientific and legal capacity.
EMEPC main goals:
a) Ensure the defense of the Portuguese submission during the interaction with the CLCS;
b) Prepare the responses to requests for clarification by the CLCS;
c) Increase the knowledge on the morphology and the geological and hydrographic characteristics of the seabed in order to consolidate the data and information contained in the Portuguese submission presented to the CLCS;
d) Promote the importance of the extension of the Portuguese continental shelf to the public and to younger generations;
e) Work in partnership with other States with which the Government has signed Cooperation Treaties.
The Extension of the Continental Shelf Project
The Extension of the Continental Shelf Project (ECSP) is a legal process, supported by multidisciplinary scientific research, using a wide range of methods and techniques.
The data acquisition program necessary to sustain the Portuguese proposal began in 2005. It was necessary to raise, collect and analyze bathymetric, geophysical and geological data, which allowed to ascertain the depth, shape, nature, geometry and origin of the deep sea.
Systematic hydrographic surveys were conducted using multi-beam systems. Overall, the systematic survey is one of the largest ever conducted covering an area of approximately 2.600.000 km2, for over 1100 mission days.
The data acquisition program, which is an ongoing process, includes geophysical surveys and hydrographic and oceanographic campaigns.
The strengthening of the national capacity for the observation and monitoring of the deep sea associated with the ECSP, required investment in innovative R & D components, which included the acquisition of a wide range of new equipments from which stands out the ROV "Luso", a Remotely Operated Vehicle capable of diving up to 6000 meters deep.
The ECSP is carried out by a multidisciplinary team on the most diverse scientific disciplines, from Marine Sciences to Law, including also Geology, Geophysics and Geographic Information Systems. It also has already involved over 100 people in programs of cooperation with various R&D entities. In addition to these key partners, participation in the ECSP activities has been open, both to the scientific community and the civil society with interest in the theme of the oceans.
The first practical result of the ECSP was the recognition, in 2006, of the Rainbow hydrothermal vent field as the first Marine Protected Area beyond 200 miles, under the jurisdiction of a country.
In accordance with article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Portugal established five Marine Protected Areas under its jurisdiction, located in the extended continental shelf beyond 200 miles: Rainbow in 2006, Altair, Antialtair, Josephine Seamount and an area of the Mid Atlantic Ridge north of Azores, all in 2010. These Marine Protected Areas total more than 119.500 km2.