|the sea bed surrounding a continent at depths of up to about 200 metres (100 fathoms), at the edge of which the continental slope drops steeply to the ocean floor|
The part of the edge of a continent between the shoreline and the continental slope. It is covered by shallow ocean waters and has a very gentle slope.
The region adjoining the coastline of a continent, where the ocean is no more than a few hundred feet deep. The shelf is built up from sediments washed down to the sea by rivers.
Note: The continental shelves are often valuable because of the mineral resources and abundant marine life found there. (See offshore drilling.)