The Portuguese Task Group for the Extension of the Continental Shelf (EMEPC) was established in order to prepare and deliver the extended continental shelf submission to the UN and to interact with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), during its consideration.
Since its inception, EMEPC’s work has been a milestone for the promotion of the sea of Portugal. The delivery of the Portuguese submission pertinent to the outer limit of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles to the CLCS, on May 11th 2009, was an important step towards that goal.
The consideration of the Portuguese submission started on the 14th of August 2017, sets EMEPC in a new phase. Currently, EMEPC continues to work on strengthening the submission and preparing for the on-going discussions with the CLCS until the conclusion of this process.
In order to best fulfill its mission and objectives, it is essential to continue to acquire technical and scientific data to defend and strengthen the establishment of the outer limit of the continental shelf contained in the Portuguese submission. The revision of the submission integrated in an addendum with new data and information collected since 2009, is fundamental for the defense of Portugal’s proposal. Additionally, the advancements in areas such as, hydrography, geology, geophysics, biology, oceanography, geographic information systems, underwater robotics and public international law, provide the country with a greater technical, scientific and legal capacity.
EMEPC main goals:
a) To 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;
b) To prepare additional data and responses to requests for clarification by the CLCS;
c) To develop the interaction with the CLCS on the Portuguese submission;
d) To promote the importance of the extension of the Portuguese continental shelf to the society.
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.
In addition to its main mission, EMEPC’s complementary objectives are:
a) To support scientific research and development projects as well as the exploration of natural marine resources in projects carried out by EMEPC, as well as in other projects considered relevant for the fulfilment of its main objectives, such as scientific cruises in the framework of the extension of the continental shelf and M@rBis project;
b) To maintain and update the database structure that supports the continental shelf extension project, continuing the SNIMar geoportal, in coordination with the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere, IP (IPMA, IP), and with the Directorate-General for Maritime Policy (DGPM);
c) To support the national scientific community, the participation of students and researchers in the projects developed by EMEPC and to collaborate, in the areas of its expertise, with other States with which the Government establishes cooperation agreements, contributing to the national effort of valorization of the sea in Portugal.