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US Extended Continental Shelf Project

ECS Data Management

The U.S. Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) Project is a multi-agency collaboration whose goals are to determine and define the extent of the U.S. continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (nm). Under international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), every country is entitled to a continental shelf extending 200 nm from the coastline. The extended continental shelf (ECS) is the area that lies beyond this 200 nm limit where the U.S. has sovereign rights to the resources of the seafloor and sub-seafloor.

The process to determine the outer limits of the ECS involves the analysis of data that describe the depth, shape, and geophysical characteristics of the seabed and sub-seafloor, as well as the thickness of the underlying sediments. The specific types of data that need to be collected and analyzed include bathymetric data, seismic reflection and refraction data, other geophysical data such as magnetic and gravity data, and geologic samples.

In 2007, the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force designated the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) (now the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)) as the Data Management lead for the U.S. ECS Project and archival location for all data related to this project.

The ECS Task Force is an interagency body headed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), with co-vice chairs from the Department of Interior (DOI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Participants in this Task Force include the: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NOAA, the Executive Office of the President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) (formerly Minerals Management Service), and the Arctic Research Commission (USARC).

2012 ECS missions to the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean
* Illustrations from:
Hutchinson, D.B., Van Pay, B., and M.I. Bohan. The U.S. Extended Continental Shelf: Science and Policy to Benefit the Nation. AGU Abstract 1359630 O-06, May 2012
none U.S. Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) U.S. Department of the Navy U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) U.S. Office of the President U.S. Department of State (DOS)