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The Canadian Coast Guard ship Louis S. Saint Laurent sits at anchor in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, on July 26, 2007. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Coast Guard ship Louis S. Saint Laurent sits at anchor in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, on July 26, 2007. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press)

Coast Guard sets sail on joint Arctic-mapping mission with U.S. cutter Add to ...

A Coast Guard vessel is heading to the Arctic where scientists will map out another section of the continental shelf, staking out the undersea territory and resources that belong to Canada.

The Louis St-Laurent will be accompanied on its four-month mission by the United States Coast Guard cutter Healy.

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This is the fourth year that a Canadian ship has spent mapping the shelf that lies below the Arctic waters to determine where it extends beyond the limit of 200 nautical miles from shore over which Canada already has exclusive jurisdiction to exploit and explore.

The aim is to have complete data to present to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by December 2013. The commission was struck in 2003 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Canada ratified in 2003.

The UNCLOS uses a complicated formula based upon the geological characteristics of the sea floor to determine the outer limits of national boundaries beyond the 200-mile limit.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield said in a release issued Monday the Arctic is a strategic piece of Canada’s future that must be sustained and protected.

“The Canadian Coast Guard, its exceptional fleet and skilled personnel are instrumental in our government's successful arctic missions as they lay the groundwork for our Northern Strategy,” Mr. Ashfield said.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is conducting the survey in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

In addition to providing a platform for the scientific work, the Louis S. St-Laurent will provide assistance to commercial shipping, which becomes viable during the summer months.

It will also support a multi-national project studying the oceanography of the currents in the Beaufort Sea to understand accumulation and release of fresh water, as well as to enhance understanding of environmental change in the Arctic.

The ship is not expected to return back to Newfoundland until Nov. 18.

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