Survey and Charting

3-D image from NOAA Exclusive Economic Zone Mapping Project

Photo 47: 3-D image from NOAA Exclusive Economic Zone Mapping Project. 
(NOAA Photo Library.)

As a maritime nation, the United States depends on the oceans and its coastal zones for trade, commerce, recreation and national security. As such, one of the earliest government scientific projects was to survey, map and chart the seabed and waters off of our coast. Today, NOAA's survey work is particularly important for determining the seaward limits of the U.S. maritime zones including the territorial seacontiguous zonecontinental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that have become recognized under customary international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC). NOAA surveys are conducted consistent with international standards and practice. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) facilitates cooperation among nations in the development of international survey standards through the implementation of the IHO Convention and its Protocol of Amendments. The survey and mapping of the seabed are essential to delineating the outer limits of that portion of the continental shelf that extends beyond the outer limit of the U.S. 200 nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) consistent with Article 76 of the LOSC. Accurate charts and maps of our offshore maritime zones are indispensable tools to assuring safe navigation, exploring, developing, managing, and preserving our resources, establishing a baseline for understanding how climate change is affecting our world, and protecting the marine environment and our national security. The U.S. has been a party to the IHO Convention since 1970. By resolution of July 21, 2008, the Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the Protocol of Amendments to the IHO Convention. On May 19, 2009, President Obama ratified and confirmed the Protocol of Amendments.

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