February 14, 2024 at 12:44 pm

The U.S. Just Grew By 386,000 Square Miles By Laying Claim To Ocean Territory

by Trisha Leigh

You might think that if one thing was true, it’s that all of the countries of the world are staying the same size.

You know, barring wars and invasions and things like that.

But, you would be wrong.

The United States recently grew by more than 386,000 square miles – almost twice the area of Spain – by laying claim to its surrounding ocean-floor territory.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Public Doman

This is legal per international law, and allows countries to manage and exploit the resources on these continental shelves.

Although 75 or so other countries have already gone through this process, the States never had until late in 2023.

The United States worked with NOAA and the US Geological Survey (among others) in order to outline where the continental shelf area left off before laying claim to seven offshore areas: the Arctic, Atlantic, Bering Sea, Pacific, Mariana Islands, and two areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Source: US State Department

Mead Treadwell, one of the researchers on the project, made the announcement.

“America is larger than it was yesterday. It’s not quite the Louisiana Purchase. It’s not quite the purchase of Alaska, but the new area of land and subsurface resources under the land controlled by the United States is two Californias larger.”

In order to make this official, the US had to submit their data and reports to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea – a convention they have thus far refused to ratify due to political disagreements.

So Treadwell says we’ll have to see whether or not the reports will be accepted.

“If somebody came back and said, ‘Your science is bad,’ I think the United States would listen. But I don’t think science is bad. I think we’ve had very good science.”

There’s good reason to wait and see, though, since there have been significant international spats regarding maritime borders in places like China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The claims by the US could be profitable, particularly in the Arctic, where they could make way for more mining, shipping, and fishing.

This also brings up the issue of environmental damage, which is not a small one.

Those issues, along with questions of security and power, will surely be up for discussion as this moves through the process.

So I guess we really will just have to wait and see.

Thought that was fascinating? Here’s another story you might like: Why You’ll Never See A Great White Shark In An Aquarium