The US Is Claiming One Million Square Kilometers Of New Land

An area the size of California

Grant Piper

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(US State Department)

In December of 2023, the United States quietly moved ahead with something called the Extended Continental Shelf Project (ECS). The State Department announced the creation of special ECS zones around the world, to which the United States is laying claim. These claims count specific seabeds as sovereign territories of the United States, opening them up to access, conservation, and exploitation.

Extended Continental Shelves are seabeds that are connected to contiguous land owned by the United States. The thinking goes that since the land is continuous, extending from owned land, it is still owned by the United States even though it lies at the bottom of the ocean. For example, while Guam is an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the land itself extends below the waves to the bottom of the ocean. Guam is simply the visible and exposed part of the land that lies above the water. But the rest of the land is still a part of the United States. Defining these areas gives the United States legal claim to the land that lies under the ocean that is connected to other sovereign US territories.

The land claims pertain only to the seabed and not the water column above it. The water above the ECS areas is governed by Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) rules that all nations follow. While the State Department talks about “corals” and “crabs” in their press release, this land grab is aimed at potential deposits of materials that lie on the bottom of the ocean. The press release also explicitly states that the ECS claims pertain to the seabed and the substrate, which would theoretically contain valuable resources. Technology has been growing in the area of seabed extraction, and many countries are eyeing seabeds around the world as potential sources of new resources to exploit.

The ECS Project has targeted seven regions around the world, including the Bering Sea, the Marianas Islands, the Arctic, and the Atlantic Coast. The areas in the Arctic and around the Marianas are said to be of special concern.

All in all, the new claims make up an area the size of California. The State Department released a list of new coordinates that section these areas off. While the waters above the seabeds…

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.