The Shelfbreak: Some Legal Aspects1
Conferences on Law of the Sea have had the objective of increasing the area of ocean floor subject to control by adjacent coastal countries. These extensions of jurisdiction have paid little attention to carefully defined and relatively easily identified geological boundaries such as the shelfbreak. Indeed, a geological term often is used in a legal sense that far exceeds the geological meaning, resulting in unnecessary confusion. The recently concluded Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea adds an area of the ocean subject to national control equal to that of the land area of the world. Certain aspects of the remaining area of deep-ocean floor, such as mining, will also be controlled and taxed by an international authority. It is possible future oceanographers may have little opportunity for research without permission and regulation by governments of either coastal nations or the United Nations. One result could be increased research and knowledge of the ocean floor that is under the jurisdiction of industrialized countries and decreased effort in the rest of the ocean.
Figures & Tables
The shelfbreak is that point where the first major change in gradient occurs on the outermost edge of the continental shelf. Although this environment delimits the boundary between two principal and well-defined provinces, the continental shelf and slope - and thus is of the first order of importance on continental margins - it has received surprisingly little specific attention in either modern oceans or in the rock record. This volume, the first compendium dedicated specifically to the shelfbreak, was derived from an SEPM Research Symposium convened at the joint Annual Meeting of SEPM and AAPG on June 2, 1981. The material is organized in a manner to illustrate examples of the shelfbreak in both modern oceans and the rock record.