The Commonwealth Secretariat is to provide legal advice and technical assistance to Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tonga for submissions to the United Nations on their continental shelves.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country can put in a claim to extend the areas of their contintal shelf beyond the traditional 200 nautical miles but must do so by mid 2009.
To date, ten countries have done so.
An adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat says they've made assistance to small states a high priority because putting in a submission represents a major financial and resource challenge, involving complex legal and
The adviser describes the chance to expand the continental shelf as a once-only opportunity.
Resources within the continental shelf can include oil and gas reserves, along with rich marine biodiversity.