So Who Owns The Arctic?

I’ve blogged a few times before about Arctic sovereignty (here and here), and how it’s related to the potential for oil and gas development (here and here).  Now the International Boundaries Research Unit of Durham University has weighed in on the issue.  Their report is here.

IBRU Map of Arctic Sovereignty Claims

IBRU Map of Arctic Sovereignty Claims

Compare this to the presumed locations of oil and gas provinces in the Arctic (Courtesy of the Arctic Council Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program).

Arctic Resources

Arctic Resources

It looks like the Barents Sea may become a point of confrontation between Russia and the West.  The Russian area has most of the presumed gas, Canada, Denmark, and the U.S. have most of the presumed oil.  This fits in with the USGS report

The IBRU notes that

In August 2007 Russian scientists sent a submarine to the Arctic Ocean seabed at 90° North to gather data in support of Russia’s claim that the North Pole is part of the Russian continental shelf. The expedition provoked a hostile reaction from other Arctic littoral states and prompted media speculation that Russia’s action might trigger a “new Cold War” over the resources of the Arctic.

While there are a number of disagreements over maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic region – and potential for more as states define the areas over which they have exclusive rights over the resources of the continental shelf more than 200 nautical miles from their coastal baselines – so far all of the Arctic states have followed the rules and procedures for establishing seabed jurisdiction set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. To date, only Russia and Norway have made submissions to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, but Canada, Denmark and the USA are also likely to define their continental shelf limits over the next few years.

In response to numerous enquiries relating to maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic, IBRU has prepared a map and a set of briefing notes on the current state of play in the region. The map identifies known claims and agreed boundaries, plus potential areas that might be claimed in the future.

For more information, see the IBRU report or the Toronto Star article here.

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