The UNCLOS introduced a new definition of the continental shelf which can extend “to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.” Coastal States can thus have a continental shelf of 200 nautical miles even in the absence of a geomorphological continental shelf, and a continental shelf extending beyond that limit where the presence of certain geomorphological and sedimentary criteria have been recognized by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).
The rights coastal State can exercise over the continental shelf are specified in Part VI of the UNCLOS. These rights are sovereign and exclusive over the seabed and subsoil, for exploration and exploitation of natural mineral, fossil and biological resources.
The French authorities also hold competence recognized by the UNCLOS for:
construction, operation and use of artificial islands and installations;
marine scientific research;
issuing consent the course of any pipeline;
issuing consent for the course of cables installed or used for exploitation of the continental shelf or of its resources.