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Mapping the Arctic dispute

durham arctic.bmpThis map of the Arctic, complete with future areas of political strife, has been drawn up by researchers at Durham University’s International Boundaries Research Unit.

It shows disputed territories that states bordering the region could potentially lay claim to under international laws on the sea and the sea floor (an issue explored more in the Nature feature from the start of the year).

“The map is the most precise depiction yet of the limits and the future dividing lines that could be drawn across the Arctic region,” says Martin Pratt, director of research at the IBRU (press release). “The results have huge implications for policy-making as the rush to carve up the polar region continues. It’s a cartographic means of showing, and an attempt to collate information and predict the way in which the Arctic region may eventually be divided up.”

The Arctic territory issue has generated huge interest since the Russians planted a flag on the North Pole sea floor last year. Recently the US Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic holds a fifth of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil.

As the IBRU explains:

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.

Click the image for a full pdf version with briefing note.

News coverage

New map aims to help battle for Arctic territories – Reuters

Arctic Map shows dispute hotspots – BBC


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