Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) sets forth the criteria upon which a coastal State may establish exclusive rights to explore and exploit seabed resources on the continental shelf extending beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Establishing ownership of these extended continental shelf (ECS) areas may be crucial for the development and political stability of Pacific States. Until these "gaps in the world map " are closed, coastal States may not be in a position to fully protect their interests or move forward with development plans.
There are 10 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) with 17 ECS submissions at various stages in the queue awaiting examination and recommendation from the United States Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN-CLCS). Of these, 7 submissions are only preliminary information notes, requiring additional information before they can be reviewed. Among these states, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga and Fiji have two joint and two individual submissions still in preliminary format - North Fiji Basin, Charlotte Banks, South Fiji Basin and Western Lau Colville Ridge.