Written Answers. - Offshore Exploration.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

69 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the extension of Irish exploration rights over the Continental Shelf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10832/03]

Ireland already has sovereign exploration and exploitation rights over its exclusive economic zone, the area of continental shelf up to 200 nautical miles from its baselines. Ireland claims an extended continental shelf, beyond 200 nautical miles and up to 500 nautical miles, particularly in the Hatton-Rockall area. As Ireland is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is required to make a submission on its extended continental shelf claim to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, CLCS. Ireland's claim is supported, I believe, by data which Ireland has collected and interpreted and which will be included in its submission.

The Hatton-Rockall extended continental shelf area is also claimed by Iceland and the Faroes. Since the CLCS has no mandate regarding issues of delimitation between neighbouring states, and cannot consider an area under dispute without the agreement of all the parties concerned, Ireland has been participating in informal discussions with Iceland and the Faroes in an attempt to reach some resolution of this dispute, before making our submission to the CLCS. The outer limit approved by the CLCS will be the outer limit of Ireland's continental shelf exploration rights. Ireland is working to make its submission to the CLCS by 2006.