According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , the continental shelf of a State is comprised of the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory, within minimum and maximum limits.
Countries exercise sovereign rights over their continental shelves for the purpose of exploring and exploiting its natural resources. According to the extension of the area recognized as its continental shelf, Brazil increases the area in which the consent of the Brazilian government is necessary to allow the exploitation of its natural resources.
In 1989, with the creation of the Brazilian Continental Shelf Survey Plan (LEPLAC), Brazil initiated technical and scientific analyses aiming at expanding its continental shelf.
In 2004, Brazil submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) a proposal for expanding its Continental Shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles (Extended Continental Shelf - ECS). The proposal requested that around 960,000 square kilometers be recognized as additional area to the current definition of its continental shelf, spread out along the coast, in the North (region of Amazon Cone and North Brazilian String), Southeast (region of the Vitória-Trindad and São Paulo plateau string), and South (region of the Santa Catarina plateau and Rio Grande Cone). The claim is equivalent to the sum of the areas of the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. If approved, the ocean area under Brazilian jurisdiction would total 4.4 million km² — which represents about half of the land national territory.
In 2007, the CLCS published a ruling which approved the Brazilian request only partially. The recommendations of that body addressed problems relating to the incorporation of about 20% of the area claimed by Brazil, which comprises the following regions:
(i) Amazon Cone and North-Brazilian string;
(ii) Vitória-Trindad String;
(iii) South Continental Margin.
The Brazilian Government decided to prepare a revised proposal of the outer limits of the Brazilian Continental Shelf, in order to respond to the recommendations of CLCS and ensure approval of its entire claim. Brazil therefore launched, in December 2008, within LEPLAC, a new phase of data collection on the Brazilian continental margin. Since the completion of the work in 2010, LEPLAC has been processing and interpreting the new data collected, as well as elaborating a revised proposal to be presented to CLCS.