Seabed Management

Mineral Development on the Seabed Delineating the Seaward Limit of the Continental Shelf

Deep-sea blob sculpin, yellow Picasso sponges, white ruffle sponge (1317 meters)

Photo 39: Deep-sea blob sculpin, yellow Picasso sponges, white ruffle sponge (1317 meters) (NOAA Photo Library.)

Under customary international law, and as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), different legal regimes manage seabed activities. These regimes govern activities in various seabed zones, including the continental shelf, which is subject to the jurisdiction of coastal nations, and the Area, which lies beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. The LOSC provides the legal framework for the regimes governing seabed activities such as mineral development and the laying of cables and pipelines. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), established under LOSC, facilitates international cooperation in the management of mineral development in the Area. For the United States, the Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act, administered by NOAA, governs the deep seabed mining activities of U.S. entities. Placement of submarine cables also may be administered by NOAA, through its National Marine Sanctuaries program, if cable placement is proposed within a marine sanctuary. However, regardless of what seabed activity is planned, management of the continental shelf begins with defining the limits of a nation’s continental shelf. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, established under the LOSC, facilitates international cooperation in recognizing the seaward limit of those coastal nations' continental shelves that extend beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone. In the United States, an interagency taskforce is defining the extent of the U.S. continental shelf.

Additional reference information regarding the three primary seabed management activities, Mineral Development, Placement Activities, and Delineation of the Seaward Limit, are identified below.


Mineral Development on the Seabed


The International Seabed Authority (ISA), established under the LOSC, facilities international cooperation in the management of mineral development in the Area. For the United States, the Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act, administered by NOAA, governs the deep seabed mining activities of U.S. entities.
U.S. statutes and regulations

NOAA and other Federal Government Resources

International resources

Additional background information


Delineating the Seaward Limit of the Continental Shelf

The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, established under the LOSC, facilitates international cooperation in recognizing the seaward limit of those coastal nation's continental shelves that extend beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone. In the United States, an interagency taskforce is defining the extent of the U.S. continental shelf.

U.S. resources

International resources

Additional background information