Last week the Government of Canada filed a 2,100-page submission with the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCOLS), states with coastal territory have the exclusive rights to about 370 kilometers beyond their shores in order to conduct economic activity. This includes the exclusive rights to any resources. However, states may also make claims to further extensions underneath the water if they can substantiate them through scientific research. Last week’s submission attempts to do exactly that for an additional 1.2 million square kilometers of sea bed.
Here is a map from High North News:
The challenge with all of this is that Norway, Denmark, and Russia all have their own continental shelf claims, and there’s geographic overlap. (The US has not yet ratified their UNCOLS agreement.) So it is unlikely for this to be resolved anytime soon, though all states seem willing to work with the UN. This is a relatively new debate because the North Pole and Arctic Ocean were previously considered neutral territory. But climate change is opening up new economic opportunities (i.e. there’s a lot less ice). That’s worrisome in its own right.
Click here for the full press release from the Government of Canada.